A Butterfly’s Notion

What one thinks changes the world...
What one thinks changes the world…

“It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.” -Chaos Theory

***

I watch the neatly-kept houses and vibrant green lawns pass by my open front passenger side window of Dad’s sky blue ‘93 Intrepid. The gentle aromas of freshly cut grass, leafy trees, and vivid flower gardens breeze by in the sunny suburban neighborhood. We are on our way to high school during late summer for freshman orientation. The radio show host announces a commercial break and I tune out the bombarding advertisements so I can enjoy the beautiful day. Suddenly, a concerned female voice draws me in on the air speaks to me. The words make my mind unsettle and my heart sink.

“Do you have times where you feel extra productive, and periods where you can’t seem to do anything?” I often do all the homework I can for weeks or months in advance to work ahead, then fall behind when I don’t feel like doing it later. I tend to take advantage of my energy when it is there. When it’s nonexistent, I need to recharge, and I prepare for this. Rarely do I work at a steady pace, and I have the tortoise and hare syndrome, but that doesn’t make me abnormal!

“Do you have times where you feel euphoric, that your mind is sharp, or you have so many ideas and thoughts you don’t know what to do with them?” I often ponder the meaning of life, and if God really exists, or if I exist, and what about each atom?  Does anything really exist? Then I just get tired, and then it all comes back again. I think about many things at once quite a bit. But isn’t that normal for everyone else too?

“Do you sometimes feel down, blue, low on energy, or hopeless?” There are times when I wish whatever this pain, this cloud, this guilt is, would just go away for good. When it’s there, I can’t seem to get any of my school work done, or anything done for that matter. I don’t want to get up in the morning for days on end. I cry myself to sleep over the littlest things that seem to mean the world to me. But eventually, it goes away. Isn’t that all part of life?

“These are symptoms of what is called ‘bipolar disorder.’ It is a severe illness, but very treatable with medications.” Bipolar. Isn’t that the mental illness that’s almost bad as schizophrenia? I’m a normal, functioning human being, as hard as it can be sometimes. My instincts tell me the problems I have are beyond normal, and I have been hiding this suspicion from everyone including myself.

“People can lead normal lives with treatment. Can you or a loved one relate to these symptoms? There is help.” Bipolar? Me? That’s crazy! I’m normal and just entering high school! My journey in life has just begun! I’m only hearing this and getting overly concerned, acting like a hypochondriac reading a textbook on mental illness and self-diagnosing. People would think poorly of me if I’m labeled bipolar. My heart gives me the notion that I’m bipolar, but I dismiss it in horror.

“I guess we’re almost there, Dad. Is there anything else I need besides what you said?” I said, as the radio voice reads the website address, contact information, and sponsor on the air…

***

Three years later at age 17, I find myself in a Crisis Stabilization Unit for two weeks of hell, completely psychotic, wandering an evil reality from beyond the other side. I’m transferred to the mental hospital after becoming stable enough, with an admitting diagnosis of schizophreniform. Dad explained that means schizophrenia-like symptoms and I need to be observed more before I’m considered chronically schizophrenic or something else.

I find myself at the mercy of the men in white coats at the hospital. They are my judges. I am on death row, awaiting my diagnosis. Schizophrenia is a crippling disease, and I show many signs of it. The medications turn me into a living zombie.  They numb my heart, mind, and soul, yet I’m painfully aware of it all. I’d rather be dead, and seriously ponder suicide often. I overhear the staff talking about how tragic my situation is. How did I get here from having such high hopes and great potential?

The hospital has observed me for over a week now.  The doctors call a meeting with my parents and me and we all sit down on cheap chairs in a small gathering room. One doctor introduces himself and explains what this meeting is about. I hang on his every word. “We want to hear your input about what you think may be going on here. You’ve had a traumatic past few weeks, and things seem to be settling down for you. I’m going to ask you a couple of questions.” He continues, “While you were growing up, do you remember having periods where you felt up and others down?”

My throat closes tight. “Y-yes, I think?” I stutter, unconvincingly.

I feel a panic rising inside of me, but the question he raised pierces through the numbing medications and points to that moment in the car three years ago, when I dismissed the notion from my heart that I have bipolar. It comforts me, and I throw my pitch. “I remember hearing a radio broadcast about bipolar and I thought that I had it… but that seemed crazy.” I stammer through everything I remember hearing and thinking about on the radio three years ago, pleading my case for bipolar.

I brace myself for his response. I have spent the last three weeks in a very dark place. I’m admitted essentially as a schizophrenic and I would think the same if I were a doctor, considering what unspeakable horrors must be in my chart from the crisis unit. What if they diagnose me as that and I’m stuck on these God-awful meds for the rest of my life? Am I doomed to be psychotic or a zombie forever? Will they think I am bipolar and not schizophrenic after all?

“Because you believe you had mood swings, and your thoughts are connected though loosely associated… and what you have just told us now… we don’t believe you have schizophrenia. You have bipolar, a disorder that is very treatable with medication. As you have heard, people who have it often lead normal lives.” There is a long pause. The unexplainable expression on his face with his glasses and dark hair, my open chart in his hands, becomes ingrained into my memory as he looks up at me. Words fail me.

Tears begin to trickle as I rapture straight from this hell in a steady crescendo. I never cried so hard from within, and I soon find myself going someplace else, feeling my front shirt collar and chest becoming damp. I am confused beyond my understanding, experiencing so many emotions at once I never thought possible at the same time. Shock, disbelief, anxiety, sadness, relief, clarity, and joy overwhelm me. My thoughts, feelings, emotions, and memories well up in small streams flowing from my broken soul out of my eyes. My head becomes silent for once and my pale, bleeding heart warms up and settles down inside my chest, the throbbing infection washed away with saline from my soul.

Slowly, my mind speaks: “I’m bipolar… and I can lead a normal life someday.”

My heart realizes: “It all makes sense, now.”

photo credit: nicholasjon via photopin cc

Realistic Expectations

The subtle bipolar storm
The bipolar storm

Amidst the storm surrounding my diagnosis, my grandpa said, “realistic expectations” to everyone. I didn’t know what it meant but tried to follow that advice anyways, and later I understood. It is an important concept to have when one is going through hard times, and when one needs to grow and get his or her act together. Other parts of the storm included difficult relationship problems, work, school, interests, taking care of myself, figuring out this bipolar problem, and moving on. Realistic expectations are healthy expectations. Not great expectations or low expectations. If you have one of those, you may end up dying instead of growing.

photo credit: .Andi. via photopin cc

Reflections – My Growth Spurt

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chiotsrun/5187045259/
Finally, after all this time in the ground…

When I mention a growth spurt, I don’t mean the nine inches I grew in eighth grade. I’m talking about my life’s current season, growing from within and seizing every opportunity to branch out. Bipolar put my life on hold for seven years from age 17 to 24. The vital truths I learned then were that I am not my illness but have it, and becoming familiar with my “strain” of bipolar. During the following three years since age 24, I found myself.

Reflecting on the past four months, I now realize I inadvertently decided to make some life changes. Such changes were impossible for me before, until I learned that change comes from within. In order to make new friends and form new relationships, I must silently call out to people from within. When I did, people came, both new faces and people I’ve known for a while, and I followed my intuitions.

Writing became a much higher priority, as my inner desire is to speak out about bipolar, mental illness, and share my experiences. Much of this is in keeping journals and keeping this blog when I can. Meditation taught me I have more control over my body, and I can lose weight because I want to. I’ve now lost over 30 pounds in 2 1/2 months! My career opportunities may be expanding as well, as I desire to have greater responsibility for my life.

With all of this being said, I mentioned in a recent post that I’m planning on telling my parents I’m not a Christian. That was my idea, and I know it to be the wrong thing to do. Why? It’s out of context. I don’t want to ruin this growth by nipping it in the bud before it blooms. I’m enjoying the season, every day of it, and I shall see it through. No one knows how my parents will react, and I’m still dependent on them financially. Also, it would cause them and my extended family great pain to hear this news. Anguish would be wrought upon me in dealing with their feelings myself. I cannot stress enough how deep the Christian convictions run in my family. As much as I want to come clean with my faith to everyone, now is not the right time or place.

To those who are suffering right now from bipolar, I feel your pain. I encourage you to press on and never do it alone. I hope this might be some encouragement for you in that there is hope of not only becoming a normally functioning human being, but that your trials indeed turn to gold. Your pain is the price you pay to be extraordinary later on. I assure you it’s worth the cost.

Thank you, everyone who has read part of my blog, and especially to those who have followed or given feedback and support! I appreciate it. Seize the day!

photo credit: Chiot’s Run via photopin cc

1 Week Followup – Zyprexa Change

So I’m going on my first week of reducing my dose of Zyprexa from 2.5mg to 1.25mg. I haven’t noticed much of a difference other than I have more energy and I’m able to concentrate better. Also, meditation is coming easier. Maybe I can go off it in a few months 🙂 I guess I’ve evaded all the pitfalls of the last dose reduction I had.

The Impossible Miracles of Normalcy

Journal Entry 7/6/08, 22 years old, 4.5 years after diagnosis.

Right now I’m normal headed towards mania because I haven’t taken my meds properly and it’s that time of year for my mood to swing up.

I feel oddly not liberated, but snuffed, decomposed, old, frail, lost, worthless. My drive I always knew is gone, I despise it, loathe it. My only source of creativity is what I write here perhaps these entire past few months; this year if it weren’t for that manic spurt I had earlier. I fail at finding work and jobs on my own. I work for dad’s office now, and I’m even slacking at that. I grow fat on fat food, and non stop video game sessions. My computer is now broken so I watch TV in the meantime.

I feel people take sympathy for me; worry that my roommates talk about me behind their backs about my laziness, poor hygiene, room cleanliness, eating habits, wearing the same clothes every day, day after day.

Where does drive come from? Success? Hard work? I’m “normal” now for me. I used to be able to live, touch, and taste these things. But now, they are out there, irreducibly complex. Routines scream at me and I can’t get up and keep up with them.

Then comes my future. How could I possibly understand what I want if I’ve been bipolar since early childhood? I’ve proven how clever and deceitful I can be with hiding my symptoms when I want to, bordering on if not becoming a criminal mind. I’ve dropped that now, it seems – it’s all lost to me, exhausting to even try to start to think about and in that mindset. But I have been doing that my whole life. I’m 22 years old, and truly a complete loser – parents pay everything, I’m slow, outdated, dry, lack interests, perverted, I smoke… At least I don’t drink much, have sex, or do drugs…

The point is I feel dead without those loopy chemicals. Perhaps the way I handle it now, I really am dead. How do I get past this? I sense that will be the under-attended direction that keeps popping up in my thoughts in the future. Will I ever figure out the miracles of normalcy, in work, routines? I’m scared I never will.

A nonChristian Coming Out

I come from a devout Christian family. I grew up as a devout Christian. Now, I’m not – and they don’t know that. I feel like I would rather tell them I’m gay than to tell them I’m not a believer according to their standards of what a believer is. At least they’d understand the concept of hate the sin, not the sinner.

If I don’t agree with the Apostles Creed, the Athanasian Creed, the Nicene Creed, or see Jesus as the only way to heaven, my soul is going to hell forever in their eyes. They will not hate me, but they will not understand my path, they will impose beliefs on me, and there will be a rift between us. To them, Christ is the only way. I believe there is power in Christ, but that is not what you follow. The focus should not be following, but being. In the next age, we’ll all be there, universe and all.

If anyone has any advice about coming out to devout Christian parents that I’m not a Christian, I’m desperate for insight. I’m at a loss. If I don’t tell them, it will cause all kinds of problems in the future. I plan to do it by e-mail, or I’ll end up walking out on them and they’ve handled such matters better in the past via e-mail.

Thank you!