Bipolar – The Diagnosis

This week a situation came up in which I was able to ask each member of my family if any of them have ever tried to learn anything about Bipolar Disorder. Every one of them said, no. I have always been the source of the storms in my family group: parents, brother, and kids. I was always angry or striking out at them (verbally) while in a devastating tsunami of rage. I was unstoppable, and I was very ill. I was a bad child. I constantly fought with my father who had anger demons of his own.

I don’t actually know if learning about BD will enable them to understand me, and even to help me when I’m helpless.

There’s just one problem – Not a single soul on this blue world completely understands Bipolar Disorder. Not one. Even those doctors who are afflicted with the illness do not know precisely how it works or what it is. And the meds I take, almost all of the fine print says it is used for things like seizures and a variety of other things, but not for BD.

Meds for BD are prescribed because the medical community has discovered that in general, some medications seem to help control the symptoms.

Symptoms. This means that the meds are not fixing Bipolar Disorder itself. The meds are just meant to enable us to coexist with other humans.

The fact is that no one understands Bipolar Disorder, not the doctors, researchers, interested persons, or those of us who live with it. You can take a little quiz online that will tell you whether or not you have it (OMG – burn all these quizzes. What? They’re digital? I guess we’ll have to be creative and figure it out.

The reason I’m so irritated and upset about this is because my much younger cousin has been spending gobs more time with my mother than I am. She keeps telling my mom that she has all these mental illnesses. My mother responds with compassion and encouragement. She tries to help her. She spends time with her. A lot of time.

I pointed this out to my mother and she didn’t say anything. The problem is that it’s true. They really haven’t done ANYTHING to try to understand, to keep track of how I’m doing, to be compassionate to ME. It really hurts.

Have you ever experienced something like this?

There are thousands of websites, books, and experts available to people so that they CAN learn about BD, so that they CAN love me despite my extra quirks and behavior that makes them not want to be around me. (This has gotten better, but let’s face it, the BD brain isn’t exactly reliable or dependable.)

I wish, that they would watch a four-minute video or read a nice and short informational page on a website.

I wish.

My mom knows someone better than she knows me. She’s embraced her and is compassionate and supportive of her. She makes excuses for her. She never has done any of that for me. She says that when I was a kid they didn’t know anything about BD so she didn’t know what to do.

“But what about now? 

“Family, I’m 55. Have you ever tried to learn about my illnesses? Ever?”

“No. Well, they didn’t know anything about it back then.”

“Mom, what about now? Today? I still have it. You know I still suffer from it. Why don’t you just Google it or search for a book on Amazon about it?”

I try to ignore the emotional pain that this lack of real love causes me (that’s how it seems to me). The daughter that lives with me has had to learn a little about it because if she didn’t she would have gone crazy. I admit that I’m not the easiest person to live with.

I can only put myself out there hoping that they will demonstrate to me that they love me with the kind of love that refuses to let me go and will do anything it takes to help me. Am I being selfish? Maybe, but I believe that love, well, love does… I don’t know how to say it.

If you have a grasp on how to describe the kind of love I’m trying to explain, please post it in the comments section. I’d love to hear what you have to say about it.

For now, I’m going to go to sleep. Tomorrow is a new day and another day I can work to keep my mental difficulties (read: demons) at bay. I enjoy my work. Once I get going I can work for hours and become completely engrossed in it. But depression has been kicking my legs out from under me this whole week and I have to say that I’d like for it to take a hike now because I’m exhausted and frankly, would rather be manic.

So good night dear Reader. Sleep well.

Bipolar Parent

Greetings friends, how are you doing in these wee hours of Friday morning?

Me? I’ve been both better and worse. Thursday had hours I enjoyed… then it crashed and burned as only the day of a parent can do.

When my three kids were young I had impressed even my ex-mother-in-law (let’s call her Kathy) with how well behaved and just good all around people my children were. Now, we are being stalked by rough and naked emotions that have always existed (that would be me, Bipolar parent) but are now beyond my own mind and have grabbed hold of my youngest.

I thought I was a good person growing up. I felt as though I were a likable person, yet I didn’t have many friends. I was lonely much of the time and kept my own company out on our small ranch with my horse, dogs, cats, chickens, pigs, cows and the occasional ducks.

I was a shit.

Seriously. I was a short, freckled shit. Today my mother and I can look years back and point to much of my careening and completely out of control behavior and emotions and say, “That, that right there!” And recognize it as full on Bipolar Disorder presenting before I even had my drivers license.

In short – I was angry all the time and blamed everyone one else for everything. My depression and anger were crushing me and the only name I could give it was – sin. I was a practicing Christian and all those “evil” emotions were clearly not of God… but that’s a topic for another time.

My youngest and his regular doctor decided that he does not have the highly genetic Bipolar brain that I’m still learning to embrace. Anxiety. Depression. Mania. Mood swings. Irrational behavior. That’s Scott, my “I’m a psych major. I already know how to deal with anger and anxiety.”

Scott is transitioning from my second daughter, Sydney, to my second son, Scott. (Incidentally my father’s name was Scott.) Scott is undergoing hormone treatment. He wasn’t always easy to talk to about things that he felt “attacked” him. Now he’s so much more difficult.

I despair.

He turns 21 this Saturday. He’s angry and bitter and is working so hard to make people not like him that I just want to sit down and breathe like I’m having a baby all the time. He and his wife are both psychology majors who it seems aren’t studying behavior.

Odd.

Scott sounds just like I did. If transitioning changes him into the sex his mind believes him to be, then I will continue to try to learn and gain deeper understanding. However, he’s a grown man (he says) and I expect him to at least respect me.

§ On Father’s Day Scott thanked me for being both his mom and his dad growing up. §

What I will not do is accept from him the same behavior at 21 that I had at 14. He has tools around him to teach him about what’s running loose in his little grey cells. Me – religion, animals, and hypnosis.

The weight of his relentless ill-will and violent anger crushed me at dinner. It was like fighting with my dad, but I was the reasoning one (yeah, no. My dad wasn’t good at being rational when angry either.)

Top the whole bloody mess off with a leaking red cherry on it and you have a self-entitled disrespecting second son.

I’m not having it anymore.

Being a parent with Bipolar is terrifying literally every second of that child’s life for me. With Scott acting like the individual (did I mention pressured speech?) that he clearly isn’t I have no clue how to even begin to help him to stop yelling into my face that I should shut up because I’m not listening.

Huh?

Parenting the twenty-something kid today is a massive challenge for this Bipolar mom. I have been charged with the crime of trying to build good family memories. I have felt despair and anger towards Scott. These are not the memories I want to build. We’re going to work this out, but I realize that I will very possibly react like I have Bipolar Disorder while we do it.

I can do this. I can figure out my part in healing our relationship. Be loving and kind… and forgiving.

However, Scott is a grown man and if he does not have Bipolar Disorder or some other explanation for his behavior, then he’d better watch out. I corralled the three of them through their teens by myself and while not properly medicated for my illness.

Respect me as your mom.

Respect my illness.

Respect yourself and get help if we just can’t talk it out.

I really wanted to go old school, like back to when I was a kid, and wash his mouth out with some nasty bar of soap like Dial or Lava and spank him with a wooden spoon. Two if the first one breaks.

Sigh….. parenting never ends, not really. My mom is still my mom. Who else would she be?

Scott, baby? YOU! It’s time for YOU to shut up and listen.

A Confession & Positive Med Visit

CONFESSION – Impact of Bipolar Mania – 
In the last few years, I’ve accumulated 15 websites, blogs and email accounts.

Yesterday I visited with my Med Provider Jamie. She finally heard me. She decided that my mood stabilizer wasn’t working, so she’s increased it and has me taking it twice a day instead of just once.

When I first got there, she started by saying that my counselor Arthur had told her that I really felt that she was doing me more harm than good in her treatment of me. I said yes, I felt that way. Then I explained why. I have been feeling at least as bad as I did when I wasn’t being treated at all with meds for my illnesses.

She also agreed to talk to my Chronic Pain Management guy about taking medications that it is strongly suggested that they not be taken at the same time. He didn’t agree with her stance on the subject. I want to mention that I’m almost completely off my pain meds now. (Boy am I feeling it.) I’ve done this so she’ll stop complaining that I can’t mix my meds (a Benzo and Oxycodone). The problem is, and I should have realized this before I lowered my pain meds, that at the clinic I go to they don’t want me taking the Benzo at all. I felt threatened when she informed me that some of the providers there would just cut me off right now. I responded by pointing out that she wasn’t doing anything about my super massive anxiety.

This last quarter I started having outbursts in one of my classes (4 times in one class the professor had to come and get the guy I was arguing with and myself to be quieter). It was humiliating.

I’ve also been experiencing rage. It’s been a really long time since I’ve felt this bad. I admit… I’ve been really scared that a meltdown is coming. Now that she’s adjusted my meds, I feel like things might get better.

I’m Bipolar 1-How Much Further Must I Go?

I’m dang angry. I’ve worked my agitated ass off for three years, stumbling under the nightmares of depression and raging as anxiety unleashed tries to undo all that I’ve endured. So close. One more quarter and I’ll graduate from UWT. One more quarter and I’ll have to get a job and support myself.

Listen to me dear Reader, if you have a medical professional who won’t listen to you or thinks your complaint is in your head (duh) or is in some way not treating you with the dignity and respect that your insurance dollars demand of them… stand up and say something! You do not always need to be nice. Trust me on this one.

I learned long ago to hide much of my mental crappiness that was going on in my skull. I was super high functioning. I had kids to raise. I can play the “I’m fine, I’m a great” parent game.

But you know what? Turns out that didn’t help the “me” of today. The “me” of today STILL needs something for anxiety. Go ahead moron. Yes, you Jamie, you have ignored my pleas for something to do for me what all the hundreds of hours of counseling have been unable to do… relieve my over the top anxiety.

I’ve asked this woman for something for anxiety since the first time I saw her. You know what she did? She started lowering my Clonazapam (spelling). Every time I’ve seen her, she reduces it. “It is just one less pill. You’ll be okay.” [bitch]

I went home with 10 pills for 30 days.

She increased my Ritalin dosage and made it extended length. I didn’t ask for that. What? You want me to calm down so we can finish our 20 minutes on time? Have you dosed me so that I’ll be a good woman and let you get done with me?

Well guess what? The shits hitting this fan.

Can any of you relate? Have you felt unheard and improperly treated? Guess what? You are NOT ALONE. Not by a screaming momma long shot.

I have IBSd. I had to talk to my counselor from home. Since I was in my own I felt FREE to explain again about my anxiety and graduation and jobs and money and acting out in class because I simply cannot contain the mountain of anxiety spilling … over into my phone call.

For an hour I yelled about Jamie to my poor counselor. I accused her of having her own agenda and it didn’t include my mental health. I’m done. She either treats my anxiety when I see her next week or –

Or I will hand deliver a letter I’ve been writing about our times together to the facility director. I’m done.

I’ve worked my hardest, trying to keep hold of myself while my wild mood swings tried to prevent me from my goal – getting a college degree at 55.

This, this Jamie, she can’t seem to hear, see, understand, empathize or give a rats ass whether I self-destruct because my anxiety has paralyzed me again. I sit on the sofa and I cry because I’m terrified I’ll fail. So I don’t start. Then the panick sets in as I realize I can’t write the paper.

In the name of the oath that we have been lead to believe that those in the medical profession must swear to, treat me for my illness.

I cannot imagine going through the graduation ceremony in the Tacoma Dome with my freaking anxiety not treated.

I cannot imagine the day after graduation when I need to be looking for a job, but because Jamie didn’t treat my well documented illness I am instead sitting in the back yard vegetable garden pretending to being weeding. The problem with this scenario is that I have arthritis, and if I have sat in the garden without anyone home to help me up… I’m not going to getup. It would mean that I’d given up. It would mean that I’d be punishing myself for continuing to be the Bipolar failure that I’ve always been. (How I feel.)

And Jamie? Still with me? You could have prevented me from losing all the ground I’d worked so damn hard all these years to reach. And why? For what? From here it just seems you’re stupid. Some medical “professionals” are stupid you know. I’ve even taken my counselor with me on two occasions to verify what I tell her.

I’m done.

I’m saying Hell No! That’s enough of this irresponsible crap. You expect those of us with mental health issues to behave? Then treat us right. Hear us when we call for help. If we bring backup pay special attention. I’m trying to get my son to go with me. He’s a psychology major.

To all of you struggling to work with your own Jamie’s, you stand fast. Do not let them push you around. They’re there to serve your medical needs. Document what you talk about and when. Keep a clear record so if you need a new med provider you can state your case and prove that they aren’t listening.

One reminder though. If you’re really messed up you may not be thinking straight. No worries. You just take a family member or someone who you can trust with you.

You’re not alone.

Oh, and if you happen to be a Jamie, what’s your damn excuse?

Angry, Raging, Bipolar

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I scared the ever living poo out of my fancy beta fish a minute ago. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Victor move so fast! He hid on the bottom and refused to take his dinner from me. All I did was walk up to his tank when he didn’t see me coming.

Fish. I feel rather like a fish.

You’d think we’re fish as much as we’re listened to when time after time we beg for different medication. Something has been going on with me mentally for around 3 or 4 months. I just thought it was growing anxiety because I have one more quarter to go and then I’m finished with school. I’ll need a job. I’ve never been able to hold a job for over a year. Even my own brother had to fire me because of my behavior, and my anger.

I take that back, I have worked for longer. When I worked for myself, I was able to manage to work with the management.

This feeling that’s been growing… I told my family in December that I’d had thoughts of hurting myself, and I honestly was. I’d had those feelings on and off for most of my life. Telling them seemed to help. Maybe it did. I felt that way tonight for about 10 minutes.

Then despair, anxiety, rage. Do these feelings take your face and squeeze it till it aches with the pressure?

Anxiety. It has been growing in my mind like a pustule about to burst black tar all over my mind.

I came to understand yesterday, through thinking over the end of the quarter problems and verbally fighting very loudly with another student – repeatedly, a colonoscopy I had to have two days in a row, a painfully torn fascia in my driving foot in December that is still painful (I’m so sick of this boot thing. It causes a painful lump on my shin bone.), intestinal troubles since Christmas, and runaway away anxiety I continuously tell my med provider about (I even take my counselor with me to make sure she’s listening. Oh yeah, that’s working great.)… I get it. I’m in a rage.

I used to live every day, every moment consumed with rage. I wasn’t a good kid. I wasn’t fun for my family to be around. My mother has finally agreed with me that I was, a terrible child. I was full of hateful and blinding – rage.

I have those feelings again. The ones I fought so ineffectively to be rid of. That consuming anger. I feel like I’m about to blow up on someone who probably did nothing to me. It’s just this thing my brain does sometimes day after day, month after month til years are wasted in fury and hate or like now when I’ve been crying out in fear and pain only to be ignored by those I dutifully trust my life to.

I’m so angry. My mind burns and I want to break things and hit stupid people. But I don’t.

I am often moments from saying things that could get me kicked out of school or arrested. But I don’t.

I’m so tired of fighting all the time. I just want to have a life free of pain. No more arthritis or Fibromyalgia. No more being too big to be healthy. No more chronic back pain. This is no life for me. This isn’t what I signed up for. I’m SO ANGRY! It’s like emotional cancer that manifests in feelings that most people can say they understand, but they don’t. Not really. If you have Bipolar Disorder Type 1 and you have had violent, angry, manic episodes you probably understand.  If not, please don’t give up on me.

Question is: what’s gonna give?

Addendum: Read on, please. This changed everything.

This morning I was listening to a TED Talk called, “the role of human emotions in science and research. Great title, right? Sounds like just what I need. At the end of her story, Ilona Stengel said this: I do not suggest that we should use feelings instead of facts. But I say we should not be afraid of using our feelings to implement and catalyze fact-based science and innovation. Emotions and logic do not oppose each other. They compliment each other. And they reinforce each other. The feeling of being dedicated to something meaningful, of belonging to something bigger, and of being empowered is crucial for creativity and innovation. Whatever you’re working on, make sure that it matters, and take it to your heart as much as you like.” [I’m pretty sure this isn’t a word for exact word match.]

Suddenly I understood. All my life I’ve believed I’ve had a purpose. I thought it was within the church, but I was always told, “No, it’s not time now Robin.” And my heart would be broken and my life stripped of meaning.

I believe without meaning, we relinquish our lives to the feelings I have been feeling. For this moment, I remember the meaning of my life. It will not be easy to follow. It incurs great emotional risk (something people with Bipolar Disorder should try to avoid). But if I can remember it. If I can remember it every moment of every day, I won’t have to rely as much upon others for the stability of my mind. My mind will be fighting my emotions with logic. I’ve done it before and I’ve succeeded. I must try again. My children have left my home. They’re all grown up. That role of the parent is gone. I feel like I have no purpose.

But I do. I do. I’d just been swallowed alive by the vomit of extreme emotions that allowed rage to consume me. For this moment. For this morning. I say no.

She said: “Whatever you’re working on, make sure that it matters, and take it to your heart as much as you like.” I am taking up my mission again. I must. If I don’t, then what’s the point? 

Do you understand?

What’s your mission? Tell me.

Robin