You may expect the typical responses – the problem of pain, organized religion, God doesn’t exist – but that’s not why I try to forget about God (or the higher power if you will).
To me, God encompasses more than any religion cares to touch on, both our universe and beyond its mysterious origins. God manifests deeper than every subatomic particle to beyond every supercluster of galaxies in our universe. The perspective God has is mind-boggling, but not beyond our capacity to always understand more of it. This God has a deeply personal nature as well, and I find at some points in my life, God’s voice is silent while during others it’s very present.
The tendency I had when I thought about God a lot is to try to interpret every little thing that happens as something divine. When I do that, I start to go crazy. Little details here and there begin to form conversations and possible predictions in my head and I start to believe them to be straight from God. Maybe some were, maybe they weren’t at the time, but it’s something I do not live my every day life in. Seeing God in everything has its place, and it’s not in the present.
My advice is to forget about God when you live your every day life. Instead, focus on you and other needs around you. Thank God and experience his voice during that time you set aside in prayer and meditation. If something truly urgent comes up, you will know. Don’t try to force God’s hand in everything like I did.
This past week, I’ve noticed that my mood has been off a little bit. Other people haven’t picked up on it, which indicates I was not hypomanic or anything, but I noticed things internally.
I’m also aware of what brought this on. I recently learned my current job position is being eliminated, which caused a lot of negative stress. I’ve been staying up too late on my own and that has added fuel to the fire. I haven’t been eating very well, either, and that combined with lack of exercise can cause problems. Also, reducing my Zyprexa about three or four weeks ago may have gradually brought this on. There are other personal reasons as well I will not get into at this point.
There have been positive happenings as a result of being up. I’ve been very creative, and able to ponder my spirituality, myself, and the universe in great depth. I’ve been more witty, spontaneous, and outgoing than usual. I found I could talk much easier with people in person and didn’t think too much about being judged socially. Writing and ideas came easier to me, and my mind was much sharper. I had more energy than normal. I sometimes felt a bit euphoric. My eyes saw colors more vividly, I could notice more details, tastes were much more pronounced, and my sense of smell was better than normal. Meditation came very easily, and I could find the balances and the voice efficiently. Basically, everything was a little magnified.
However, there were negative things as well. I felt a lot more impulsive than normal, I said weird things to people that I normally wouldn’t say, and sometimes wished I could take them back. I became more obsessive about thoughts and sometimes people, concepts, ideas, things, and couldn’t stop the obsessions at will at some points. I tended to overanalyze everything and it started to drive me nuts. One example of this obsessing and analyzing was my manager who broke the news to me about my position. I couldn’t stop thinking about her and the situation at hand, which led to bad conclusions. Fortunately, I was not so “up” that I was hypomanic and didn’t actually act. It all mostly stayed in my head, but not all of it, I’m sure.
My course of action? To start going to bed on time, for one! Also, I am starting to eat healthier again and I am noticing a difference after a few days already. One night, I had to take a prn dose of extra Zyprexa to slow my mind down. Also, I need to come to terms in that this is the beginning of falling off course, so I’m not tempted to just “go with it” and fall way off course. Instead, I am being proactive and preventing the mood swing from turning into a significant one.
Meditation also helped, along with keeping my heart on a very short leash. When my heart gets carried away, the mind goes with it. When the mind gets carried away, the heart wants to skip away. When the mind or heart begin to drift away, that’s a warning sign. It’s hard to recognize, as I largely perceive things through the two.
However, I look from within myself, my center, if you will – the mind and heart are extensions of me. I am getting to know them and learn how to keep them close to me. When they drift off the ground is when other people will begin to notice and not just me, which is a place I don’t want to be. It can lead to doing things, big or small, I’ll regret doing later on.
So, keep your minds and hearts on a short leash! Learn what little nuances show up when you’re about to have an up swing. Don’t be in denial, and do something about it when you have that inkling something’s not right – it could save you from crashing and burning down the road!
If you don’t have a plan for when you’re starting to swing up towards (hypo)mania, talk with your doctors about it and come up with a preemptive strike!
“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.”
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.
One side of my extended family and my immediate family experienced severe drama shortly after I was diagnosed 10 years ago. It ended with my immediate family deciding to cut off contact indefinitely, and ten years later it’s still in full force. The oddest part about this fiasco is that everyone had their own good (never malicious) intentions about the entire situation.
My psychotic episode acted as a catalyst to enable a series of events to unfold, which brought up old pains and perceptions about family dating back to before I was born. My parents did the best they could to keep me out of the middle of it, and they did a good job save for what was pertinent to our immediate family and to me. I had enough trauma to deal with at the time, and I had to fight tooth and nail to keep my head above water. My parents were taking care of me, so it was in my best interest to side with them on everything. As a result, people got burned.
At the time of this whole fiasco, each party had its own agenda to try and remedy someone or something or another. I had many agendas in that I wanted counseling for a separate personal problem as well as counseling for my immediate family as there seemed in my mind to be issues there. My aunt shared many of the same beliefs that I did and wanted to help me bring those ideas forward. She offered whatever support she could give in the process, including an open offer for my sisters and I to stay the night if we needed to while everything was being processed. My grandparents wanted everyone to stop fighting, to fix the problem and move on.
In everything, no one was in a position to own up to anything, myself included, and that put gasoline on the fire. I wasn’t able to stand up for what I believed, either, partly because the truth may have destroyed my immediate family at the time. My immediate family was treading water, too, after the stress I put forward. I ended up turning on my aunt in the interest of self preservation and keeping my family together. In hindsight, I believe it was the right thing to do, but it is still a band aid, and that just may have to do.
What ultimately did our extended family in is that we decided against getting a professional third party involved. As a result, everything blew up in our faces. I believe that two things need to happen if there is any hope of reconciliation. One is that both parties (my family and everyone else) need to get to a point where they want to resolve the situation. The other is finding an appropriate third party to mediate. The second part is in place, as my therapist knows the situation very well, understands the complex dynamics involved, and she knows me as well, the catalyst. She does house calls and I have her cell phone number for after hours.
While finding the third party is the easier of the two, at least it is in place in case the miracle happens when everyone wants to give things another go.
This post is on the personal side, even for me. At my extended family gathering yesterday, I had an opportunity to talk one on one with one of my aunts. We’re both introverted at heart and needed to go downstairs to recharge, where we start talking.
We start off with the topic of losing weight as that’s something we’re both striving for. This leads to a discussion of my mental health and my medications. I explain to her where I am at, and she says she had no idea because I have left her in the dark. I tell her it wasn’t her fault as she tried to reach out and I pushed her away. She says to me, that my old self became lost and I turned into a different person after my initial trauma occurred ten years ago. I agree with her, and I’m inadvertently trying to get some of the good parts back of my old self.
She’s incredibly happy that I feel the way I do about my bipolar, that it is a very small part of me that I don’t think about other than here or in private conversations from time to time. She says it seemed to define me before, but not so anymore – not at all. I also share my desire to reach a point where I can go back to school and pursue a career in writing – at least give it a shot, if you will.
She suggests that I write down my story according to exactly how I feel first, and go from there. It’s hard for me to do that, as this involves real people whom I love and are close to me, and to share that stuff with certain parties would ruin them. The main one being that my mom played a very big role in pushing me over the deep end early and initially. I know that going over the deep end would be inevitable, but that’s how things went down. My aunt points out I need to get these feelings out sometime that I hold tight to in order to protect others, that it’s not good to keep them in. I know I’ve shared plenty with my therapist, but that’s different than sharing it with family or friend.
I also realize, something I failed to tell my aunt yesterday, that I pushed her away because of other extreme extended family drama from ten years ago and I feared I would repeat that pattern by opening up to her about my feelings.
It’s taken 10 years for me to have a truly meaningful personal conversation with extended family like that. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.
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?
I just want to put it out there that bipolar I is not who I am… It’s something I have. When I live out my day, I don’t tell most people I’m bipolar, nor do I think about bipolar. It’s become a small part of me, but I choose to reflect on it so I can write about it for others who struggle with all of this.
When I was first diagnosed, bipolar was the biggest part of who I was, and at times it was me. When I lived out my days, I’d tell most people I met that I’m bipolar, and couldn’t stop thinking about bipolar. It became all of who I was, and I couldn’t stop writing about it and thinking about it to figure out what the heck was going on. I vented to friends and family a lot about it, burning many people out.
I still remember the moment I was diagnosed, that the doctor said I would lead a relatively normal life. He was right, as much as in the past I wanted to slap him in the face for what he said as it seemed impossible. It’s taken over ten years for normality to become reality, and it’s worth all the hard work, no questions asked.
Do you know any people who are mental illness survivors?
As of now, I’m an anonymous male in my late twenties, who has been diagnosed with bipolar I (a bad form of manic depressive illness) for over ten years. I’ve gotten things together pretty well. Now I intend to write about my experiences mostly for the benefit of other people going through similar things that I did, and to reinforce my belief that bad things happen for many reasons.
My dream that I’m breaking down into goals now is to publish a nonfiction book of my two psychotic episodes I experienced in 2003 and 2009. Many ideas are on the table, especially writing it in the form of stream of consciousness. My blog will serve as a record and an outlet as I embark on this long journey.
For the longest time, I knew no one who experienced something like a psychotic break, and this made me feel lonely, alienated. To those who have experienced the profound horrors of a break/episode/psychosis/whatever-you-want-to-call-it, I hope to put this book out there to vividly demonstrate they are not alone and normality can become reality.
I appreciate any feedback and suggestions, and any support you give is treasured.
Do any of you know someone who has bipolar? Are you bipolar? Please share your thoughts about this project I’m beginning to embark on.