The Living Dead

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If it’s worth anything, after going through those vivid psychotic experiences I went through, I found the other side is a wonderful place and it’s intricately connected to everything here, now.

It’s not a matter of who ends up there or who doesn’t… it just is. We’re all part of it, whether we know it or not.

One way I can describe such a perspective is waking up in a dream and having that become reality, being awake and asleep at the same time… becoming the living dead. The dream itself is nearly incomprehensible.

The living dead’s eyes are open and see what God allows them to see, never more than what we can handle.

-theothersid3

photo credit: Eyes Color via photopin (license)

“Lost” -Sunlounger ft. Zara

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When I am truly hurt, everything is hopeless, and nothing seems to work, I will lie down and put on some music. When I’ve completely lost myself and I’m utterly afraid, I do my best to let everything go and I find that there is love and hope, always. This is one song I cherish:

 

“Lost” -Sunlounger ft. Zara (lyrics)

Forget the peace inside
You’ve given way to the gods of destruction
Full of desire
You feel afraid that there’s nothing left

Oh oh, oh no
Oh oh, oh no

The ocean is dry
Do you feel hollow?
Nowhere to hide
And nothing to swallow

And when you can’t recognize
Anything solid
Where do you turn?
When you can’t buy it?

What can you believe in now
With no love to follow?
Now that you have lost yourself
Oh, can anything help you now?

Just let your fears go
You might find your way back home
Let your fears go
You might find that you’re not lost

Just let your fears go
You might find your way back home
Let your fears go
You might find that you’re not lost

What did you learn?
What was it worth?
What did you yearn for?
Everything’s lost now

And not alone and not alone
And not alone and not alone
And not alone and not alone
And not alone and not alone

Just let your fears go
You might find your way back home
Let your fears go
You might find that you’re not lost

Just let your fears go
You might find your way back home
Let your fears go
You might find that you’re not lost

Songwriters: DE VORZON, BARRY/BOTKIN, PERRY L
Lost lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Ultra Tunes

photo credit: Dragon Tree via photopin (license)

Slippery Slope Into Darkness

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So, how does someone with severe bipolar appear to become psychotic out of the blue? Does one typically snap into a psychotic state or out of one?

The answer my therapist gave me is true to my experience: No. Psychosis is a long, slippery slope towards falling over the edge, and recovery is a long, gradual, up and down slope out of the pit for acute psychosis. The trick I found is to learn how to catch it earlier and earlier to the point where I can maintain and not have to worry about it happening anymore. A significant part of staying away from psychosis as someone with schizoaffective/bipolar I disorder is staying on my medication, no matter how unpleasant the side effects can be. I’ve had two psychotic breaks: first was when I was diagnosed twelve years ago and the second one five years later when I stopped my medications.

What are some general things that go through my head when I’m psychotic?

Fortunately, I do not experience anger or aggression for the most part towards anyone. The only way I can briefly describe it is that I feel like everything I can possibly conceive of is going through my head at the same time. It feels like I’m transported to a different reality, which is a wondrous new place, or hell depending on what episode I’m talking about. With all this information overload, little details begin to form more delusions: religion, personal, ideas, world events, and reality itself all become torn open and full of mysterious riddles.

While all this is going on in my head, what do other people see?

I remember leaving my physical body and conversing with other people around the ward, conversing with patients and staff, and visualizing unimaginable things. However, my hospital records document me sitting in my room those days scribbling away on papers about a girl I was obsessed with years ago at the time. I remember having glimpses of writing about her in what seems like my subconscious. True reality was a dream to me and I was living in a dream (the kind I have when I’m typically sleeping). I likened myself to the living dead at the time, awake and asleep at the same time. My friend also visited me in the ward and he later told me that he could see it in my eyes that sometimes I left and came back right in front of him. When I came back, he pleasantly said to me, “Welcome back!” Then we’d converse for a few more seconds before I returned to my psychosis trip. The same would happen with staff as well – I faded in and out and the staff were very excited to see me back when I came back, before fading again seconds or minutes later.

Another interesting note: as I fade in and out of reality, so to speak, what happens when I call someone on a cell phone? Well, I did… I called my friend, and I heard his voice loud and clear, then felt myself go to the other reality and all I heard was static coming through on my phone – with a full signal. I’d come back and hear his voice again, then fade away again. I wrote a post about this earlier.

I remember trying to tell myself and hearing other people tell me that all those experiences are in my head, and they may be. However, whether real or not, they are what they are. I’m not concluding that I merely sat in a room as an empty shell of a body working out my obsession with a girl in the hospital is the whole story of what happened there. There are many more precious experiences to be told.

Some day, I hope I can do justice to describing what it is like to go through a firsthand psychotic break. It’s like getting lost in a fractal without any reference points, then coming back out again and seeing everything so differently.

-theothersid3

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Psychosis Needs to Steep.

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If I could do everything over again, I wish I had set aside my mission of interpreting my psychotic experiences aside for later to work on after I had recovered more. Think of it as allowing the fresh, immature flavors of the experience to steep for a while and come back in a truer form that turns into something remotely consumable.

A psychotic experience is inherently an experience so great that I can’t wrap my mind around it. As every month passes, I understand more of it, and every few years, my interpretation of it may completely shift in certain aspects of it. Not only can I not wrap my mind around it, I have no frame of reference within my experiences in real life to contain it or frame it or allow my mind to interpret it.

The stories of my psychotic experiences have taken years to unravel as much as they have and allowed me to start understanding them. I liken these stories to a fractal. I can zoom in on any part or aspect of it and it has a seemingly infinite number of interpretations and implications, no matter where I look, and I find myself getting lost in the beginning.

If I need to revisit my experiences before I’m ready to, I do it in two ways.

The first is to talk about it with people I trust, to vent and to describe to them what happened. This helps me expose some air to all those experiences I had.

The second way is to deal with them more in my journals. If I have problems obsessing about them, I write down the content in my journals, and develop a mental plan of action as to how I can ignore these thought patterns in the future and explain to myself why I need to do so. I need to focus on what is important, recovery, and deciphering fractals of psychotic experiences right after they happened is not the road to recovery. It only leads to more grief.

That being said, after I get to a point where I can handle doing so without triggering my bipolar symptoms, I find it helpful to write down snippets or stories in great detail of what happened during my episodes. This serves two purposes: 1. It helps provide a fresh look later on when I reflect on my journals and look to see and remember what actually happened during my breaks in the forefront of my mind. 2. It helps me process the experiences at face value and understand what content there is in my psychotic breaks to allow me to recognize thought patterns I need to avoid.

In both of my psychotic breaks, God did not abandon me. He was there on every level each step of the way. Sometimes I was aware at the time, sometimes I wasn’t. In any case, God gave me a lot to handle but never anything more than I could. The same is true today. Always.

-theothersid3

photo credit: Borderline Biennale 2011 – L’Histoire de l’Oeil, François Moncarey & Kevin Ramseier (CENC) acting performance IMG_4165 via photopin (license)

God Speaks to Me Pathologically

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Everything can be interpreted in my mind as spiritual, if I wish to do so. It could be God’s will that this timer went off on my phone right at this moment for a reason, possibly to call a girl I’m interested in, or a reminder from God that I’m loved by him. Perhaps the very numbers in the hour, minutes and seconds in accordance with the date mean God’s trying to tell me to do something extraordinary out of the blue.

Also, my disorder tries to tell me things as well. It really zooms in on seemingly insignificant details and makes them my entire world for minutes, hours, days, weeks, even months, years, a decade – if not in the forefront of my mind then lingering in the background, always. When I throw the idea of demons into the mix, things just seem to escalate, even to the point where I was afraid to look at myself in a mirror for fear of terrible things happening to me when I do so.

What is real? Where has my foundation gone if God is speaking to me in ways that are pathological? Why when I pray does my mood fluctuate and God become so close yet inaccessible? How long will things be like this? Forever?

First, I ask myself… what is important? What is not important?

What IS important? The answer to this, I know, is different for everyone, but some things are universally the same. For instance, getting better is important. Surrounding myself with people whom I love and trust is important. Finding out how to get better is important. Relearning how to become a happy, functional person is important. How does one get there? That is the journey. Embrace it, try not to dread it all the time. In the process of getting better, I have polished most of my life’s most precious gems and gone through the harshest of life experiences.

What IS important? Learn more about bipolar I disorder and schizoaffective disorder. Learn everything I can about it from the clinical side and personal experiences I can gather from people who’ve gone through it in books and conversations. This allows me to take ownership of my disorder and make it a smaller piece of who I am. When fighting mental illness, knowledge can have much power.

What is NOT so important? The number one unimportant thing for me is proving to myself whether something of questionable origin or reality is real or not. It may seem important to know whether what happened was real or not. However, trying to prove or disprove what happened is moot. What happened happened. For example, I will go crazy if I try to prove or disprove the reality of that experience of the boy teaching me real magic in the insane asylum. If it’s not real, then I’m crazy for thinking it in the first place… if I focus on it being reality, I will be sucked into the world of seeking real magic and end up back in the hospital. Trying to prove spiritual or psychotic experiences are real or not real is a lose-lose situation. Instead, I see them as being there as valid experiences I had and set them aside.

What is NOT so important? God speaking to me literally in my thoughts, ears, events, or random associations. The real truth is expressed and lived out, not a revelation straight from God. Does God communicate through the Spirit like that on occasion? Most certainly, but not all the time, to the point where I feel the need to witness to every weary soul on the face of the planet or have a detailed itinerary planned out for every moment that changes in a second’s notice.

So, what do I focus on? I focus on what IS important. I set aside what I cannot handle to deal with later. I figure things out by writing it out in my journal, so I can lay it out in front of myself. I apply what I learn to my mind. When I get a handle on it, I can start living it out in the world.

My apologies for taking so long to write. I hope to write again soon.

-theothersid3

photo credit: Dark Art via photopin (license)

Psychiatrist Visit 2-29-2016

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I saw my doctor today and I’m quite excited about the visit! We decided it’s best for me to cut my antidepressant Wellbutrin 150mg from my medications to take, which leaves me with only two that I now take for bipolar. Only a few years ago, I was taking five different medications for bipolar every day!

I’m now only on Lithobid 1500mg (Lithium carbonate extended release) and Abilify 20mg per day. It feels good to reduce the medications I need as I progress in my recovery and treatment process. It isn’t that I didn’t need all the medications before, but that I no longer need them at this point. I’m not afraid to add medications as long as I need them in the future, but I admit it’s wonderful that I don’t need as many atm.

I imagine if I start becoming depressed in the future, I’ll add the Wellbutrin back on temporarily.

I used to take a steady dose of Zyprexa as well, which I find to be a debilitating but effective medication for mania. If I start becoming manic, I add a small dose of Zyprexa temporarily.

The lithium acts as a mood stabilizer and is the foundation of my medicinal treatment.

The abilify prevents depression as well as mania and psychotic symptoms associated with both. Overall, I find it to be another miracle drug with no perceivable side effects at this point.

Well, that’s a snap shot of my medications as of now. Anyone else dealing with medication changes these days?

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Twelve Years Ago

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Black Fire

Twelve years ago, I was newly diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, reminiscent of bipolar I. I’m now spending a little bit of time reflecting on what that was like at the time.

I remember that every detail had a purpose and God was in control of every aspect of every detail. Every detail, big and small, came from God and I denied myself in the process. It seemed like the Christian thing to do, to deny oneself and give the reigns to God to control.

This added fuel to the raging fires of bipolar problems I was going through at the time. My mood was varying between mania, hypomania, depression, and mixed, sometimes cycling multiple times a minute. One second I feel like things are looking up and God is in control and everything is going to be ok until it hits me and I get a sinking feeling that I will amount to nothing and the pain comes, which is darker than hades itself and all I want to do is kill myself and make it stop.

On top of that, I was extremely confused about who I was. I had no clue, other than that I was successful and intelligent at one point and I felt I was no more. I had lost everything and it wasn’t coming back ever again. I didn’t even like how I looked even though I was a very handsome young man.

My psychotic break was the cherry on top of this whole situation. My mind went places no one could understand. It left me completely and utterly alone, cut off from God. If I were to start thinking about religion or God or start praying, my delusions came back and my mood would skyrocket on the spot. Prayer was of no help. The Bible only fed my delusions.

I was lost in every true sense of the word.

Now, to give you an idea of how lost I was, bring all of the above to the forefront of your mind and don’t stray your attention away from it. All of it happens at once in varying degrees. This was my world, then. It was all I could know and experience for months if not years. Demons followed me and coerced me, God was there and all powerful but controlling and deliberate, yet oh so distant from my mind, heart, and soul to the touch.

I’ll try to put it all together:

I have no idea who I am other than that I’m a loyal follower of God that holds everything in his hands and nothing happens without his say so, but when I try to pray or talk to Him, my heart races and I get an adrenaline rush then my mind starts racing and I have to stop only to keep my head from going up Satan’s ass so to speak, who is also trying to convince me that I’m the second Christ or the antichrist (it sounds silly but all I have to do is say the words and I become more powerful than I can imagine) and he’s using his will power to coerce me into believing one of the two (or both), that is I’m the second Christ or the antichrist, and while all these things are on my mind, my mood is skyrocketing and plummeting by the split minute so God feels so close then so far away the next instant then my mind races again about how I’m such a failure and can’t go anywhere in life and I should just shoot myself now or slice my wrists, but my therapist reminded me that I’m a person who has people in my life who would miss me if I were to die, but it won’t stop and it needs to stop!

It hurt. This was only the surface.

My heart goes out to everyone who has just come out of a psychotic episode. You’re not alone in this experience, no matter how mysterious it was.

It’s good to be back.

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Psychotic Gems

It’s hard to describe how I “got over” or “recovered from” my two breaks, because those words don’t do justice to what’s involved with completely losing one’s mind. It’s a process, though, that’s for sure.

One piece is to learn not to ignore the breaks themselves and not to obsess about them. Ignoring them without processing them or testing them against everyday life and reality will make them grow worse. Obsessing, on the other hand, will keep me from moving on and being able to separate my breaks from my everyday life.

Another piece is that I don’t want to discount everything I experienced as just something of the mind. Conversely,  I don’t want to hold everything I saw as absolutely true in real life. Approaching either extreme will cause great anguish and confusion.

In all things, have realistic expectations.

During my first break, I had crazy beliefs about the people around me. When I tested these beliefs against reality and everyday life, they did not hold up and my delusions began to break down.

Also, It’s hard to talk to people you have half-delusions about after coming back from a psychotic break. Talking with people I knew I could trust was very helpful in clearing up some of my delusions about people.

Some pieces of my breaks took a few years to unravel. An obsession over a certain girl was one of them. That took a 2nd psychotic break to undo the delusions there that happened, 5 years after my first one.

What of the other pieces? I look up into the sky and see a most beautiful spectacle. There are missing pieces which hide the most vital parts that bring everything together. I hold several of the pieces in my hand.

I then live every day outwardly as though I am ignorant. Inwardly, I spend some time in my private life figuring out how these pieces fit, both alone and with close friends.

The pieces I still hold in my hand are the cream of my own little world. The challenge to fill in the gaps will never end till after I die. While my psychotic breaks were fundamentally the harshest things I’ve had to deal with, they are also my greatest gems.

Live Like They Never Happened

I suppose it may be better for me to just move on and forget about my past two psychotic breaks. However, as I learn more and experience more things in life, I’m realizing they play a big part in how my worldview is shaping up. Although it may be true I’ll never understand them till I die, I understand more about them as time goes on. What does not settle well is that it depends on whether the world as we know it ends first or my death happens first. Part of my psychotic breaks dealt with the end of the age and the commencement of the new.

I don’t expect anyone to understand. I continue living life as though nothing happened. I try to be generous, kind, loving, wise, and understanding. In my alone time, I spend some of it pondering all the big questions. I’ve been one to do that most of my life.

I think it’s a happy medium to spend some alone time thinking about my worldview and my breaks how they fit in. If I leave the psychotic breaks alone, then they have begun to drive me up the wall in the past. I have not reconciled the content of my breaks with how I understand reality yet. I still hope to write a book on them, what they were from my point of view and my inpatient notes’ point of view. They are drastically different.

Drastically.

My Cycle

(Excerpts from my journal today)

I feel like I have a lot to write about today. Not sure why but all of it is bogging me down quite a bit. I’m growing restless, impatient, frustrated, anxious, and uneasy. I no longer feel steady like I did yesterday.

I feel restless because I have a lot of inner energy radiating out that burns. The kind of burns that wound and become infected, not the burns that cauterize and sterilize. The toxic energy keeps spreading within me.

I’m impatient, because like any person who was once a child, I want everything I want NOW. I want to skip past all the hard work and navigating the path through dense jungle, and just be there now. Life isn’t supposed to be this hard. Am I really asking too much after the past I’ve endured and the endless recovery from it?

I’m frustrated because things happen not the way they I feel should have. I’m frustrated for many other reasons. I’m pretty much alone without my family and online friends. I have no job. I have no life. I’m out of shape. I’m too lazy to do much about it. I have great ambitions with no clear path how to get there. Suicidal thoughts creep in once in a while. I don’t want them there at all.

I’m anxious because I don’t feel I’m up to the task. What is my capacity for change at this point of my life? Can I do the work to get there? What work needs to be done and how much? I feel trapped in my own miserable existence. I’m afraid I’ll stay here forever to the day I die…

I’m anxious I’ll never measure up to anything worthwhile or be happy about my life. Ever again.

I’m weary because this is a well-established pattern:

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Right now, I’m in the “Waking up” stage. I’m past the “Breaking point.” How do you break this cycle? I haven’t figured it out yet, but the progress and recoveries are cumulative over time, never starting again from square 1. However, every “Breaking point” is perilous.