Bipolar/ADHD-Focus or Not to Focus

Bipolar/ADHD – To Focus or Not to Focus, That’s the Damn Question!

I apologize if you don’t like the word “damn.” My mom still corrects me when I use it. You know it’s taken me a really long time to learn how to say it convincingly. I mean, forever when I’d get mad and say it people would actually say to my face things like, “Yeah, no. Don’t say that. You just can’t say that.” I’d ask why not. “You just can’t.” Why not? “Robin. You sound ridiculous.” How, can anyone sound ridiculous swearing!!?? It is swearing!! I thought all swearing sounded stupid. Apparently not.

Apparently, I still sound silly when I swear. My advantage, if I have one, is that when I’m really backed against the wall (read – super, super, very, very angry in a The Hulk sort of way) I may not have the best use or depth and breadth of swear words, but I make up for it in shear fury. Sometime I even scare myself with the power of that, what is it called, that RAGE. I hate rage. Yippie…. If I seem less than optimistic it may be because she referred to me as “atypical atypical.” I don’t know about you… but I dunno what the damn that means.

I’ve been in that place where a ton of stuff has been building and building and I haven’t realized that I haven’t released the pressure off of ANY of the things that need to chill out. I didn’t recognize how stressed I was or how long it had been since I’d had a good long laugh. I hadn’t been doing any of the right healthy things that would have kept me bouncing my life ball along the way I want it to go. Instead, well, yep, the doo-doo hit that fan thing and I went kaboom!

Sadly, I kaboom-ed the day after I started the new medication. My normal reaction would be to stop taking the medication immediately and talk to the provider. I can be very sensitive to some medications and have reacted violently to at least one of them. This time I was certain that I sensed I was feeling my old companion, rage, and not a medication complication. I could have called her up and told her it didn’t work. In fact, not only could I tell her did it not work, I could tell her I became hysterical and physically violent. I threw things and yelled and screamed. I slammed cupboards and the garage door and kicked them some more to make sure they knew they were in for it. I yelled and slammed, and slammed and yelled again, then again. I even stomped on the recycling and got it all ready to be taken out. I was feeling better so I screamed some more.

It didn’t take me long. It never does. All that adrenaline seems to surge around and drive all the clogged moods and emotions directly before it shoving them straight out my mouth and into the air where everyone can hear everything is say and scream. Hence, yeah, all the yelling. This is my most unscientific assessment. What do you think? I kind of like it. There are a few drawbacks to this.

First, while I’m acting all bonkers I sound like a fighter jet screaming in a rage stuck in the face of my kid who has been standing four feet away from me the whole time. I suck. She still loves me. She knows I’d do it for her. We’re a team. An unbreakable team. And, none of that matters. I ask her forgiveness. I apologize. I don’t expect her to help me fix my mess or even ask her to. It isn’t her job. Should I have realized I was brutalizing her emotionally by just raging against nothing? Of course. But, the unfortunate thing about losing one’s shit is that one has lost one’s shit and there isn’t a rotten thing one can do about it at that particular time. I know. It pretty much sucks.

Second, I made a mess and I have to clean up my own mess when I rage-out. This time things were very different than other times. I got to the point(s) fast. Meaning, I talked very fast and I stopped carrying on faster than was usual.

Okay, I say “as usual” but that really isn’t fair. It isn’t a “usual” thing anymore. It used to be my normal state everyday. I might not have thrown things all the time, but that rage was dwelling just behind my eyes, barely under control, for far too many years of my life. Now it is a moment that happens a couple times a year. That’s it. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made. If you’ve struggled with something like this too and you’ve gained ground on it, if you’ve got your foot on it’s neck, even if you’ve just finally figured out where the neck is, then I applaud you! Keep your foot right there and press harder! You can keep doing this. Never, ever stop fighting.

It’s been over a week since I started this new medication. Now that my moods/emotions have finished imploding and exploding simultaneously I can begin to assess how I think the medication is working for me. I ask my two kids who live with me what they think and remind them to take my explosions out of the equation. We’ve all agreed that we shouldn’t make that part of our assessment. We have decided, that for now, all things considered, that I’m not manic and I’m definitely focusing better. Yep. Better focus, but not all the time and we wouldn’t say it’s great. And my ability to chose the right or appropriate thing to be focused about is lacking wisdom.

For example: Do hours of research for business proposal and writing projects by doing deep dives down Google rabbit holes. Nut house! (I’m trying to find someone to make a prototype for me of a product I’ve developed. Since I have so much extra time and not a thing to think about I’m researching crowd funding like Kick-starter

I’ve tried to do this event called The National Novel Writing Month for several years, but every year I… I give up. I convince myself that although I have been working on a viable and interesting story for months or even is some cases for years, I don’t have what it takes to write those 50,000 words in one month. Loads of other people do. But I can’t. So I never try.

This year my daughter and I were both ready to do it and then… um… I got sick. Honestly! I got a really bad head cold. And my arthritis is killing both my thumbs. And my sciatic hurts when I sit. And I sneezed. And I forgot that a mystery has to plant clues. I have to plan more!!!

Oh my gosh!!

Isn’t Scrivener just terrific? It shows you just how much research you should have done before you started writing. Apparently I’m much more of an Outliner than a Pantser. (I’ll explain in another post.)

Any port in a storm. Any excuse in an open schedule when I can waste as much time as possible. And my head cold is gone. And I’m still researching. And it is now November 7th and I have 87 words written towards a 50,000 word count goal. I do, however, have a lot of research including my murder victims, the killer, heroine, places the bodies are found (it happens during the Seattle World’s Fair – “Alaska-Yukon-Pacific-Exposition 1909“), the exact dates they were found, etc. I’m very excited about it. I’ve finally come to realize that once I have my victims all named and given them occupations/affiliations, chosen the day their body is found based upon the group they are affiliated with (groups at the fair have special days to celebrate their organizations), chosen where their body will be discovered and decide how many victims there will be the story will flow very easily. I really have a lot of it worked out in my head already. It’s the logistics that I’d decided I couldn’t do so I couldn’t write it. And then I decided that I wouldn’t be able to write the draft (note that I’m writing a DRAFT) if I don’t actually start writing on the first day of the month.

That was just a silly thought. Oh bother. Way to not believe in yourself bird! What would the kids say???

That’s easy. I’ve already been told off. LOL I talked about it with the daughter that is doing this with me and she helped me with some of the details I was struggling with. She actually got excited about it. The way the actually history of Seattle in 1909 and the real fair, etc fit with my mystery are all very exciting! Her being interested in helping me and talking about it with me really gave me confidence that I could carry on and do this thing.

I feel better.

One more thing before I let you go. In the middle of the day I was ultra productive. I took a pic of one of our cats. Savvy, actually. She’s our youngest. She’s our rescue. She thinks my Kelpie (dog) Bailey is her mother… still! Bailey is still not interested, but still is willing to play with her when she decides to. It’s amazing to see her put her nose under Savvy’s belly and flip her up into the air. Savvy doesn’t seem to mind. At that point, the game is ON!

While my daughter was at school I got a really cute picture of Savvy. I wisely decided to use my time to use some filters (I never do this sort of thing. I think I’ve used filters twice now.) and change the pic up and send them to her so she could feel encouraged. She’s been having some anxiety at school and I wanted to get her mind to snap off that feeling and on to something I know she’ll give 100% of her attention to for a few minutes. (She goes to a school where this isn’t a problem. She can take a break and the teacher doesn’t care.) Well, 30, 35, 40… I don’t know. Some-odd-minutes later I finally finished my very productive time wasting maneuvers and tried to return to doing whatever it was that I was not successful doing before I distracted myself from earlier.

Is it working? Am I focusing better? You tell me. What do you think?

This is what I was doing…. I asked myself, “How many filters could I use to make the same cat, in the same pose, look cool?” You be the judge.

Writing to Release My Pain

brain_on_fire As long as I can remember my mom has been telling me to write down my troubles (like people I hate [my interpretation], my frustrations, the things that are bothering me, and so on). I imagine that people actually do this… but I don’t. It’s probably because my mom tells me to try it and I rarely listen to my mom. Isn’t that horrible?

I do things that have my spin on them and they basically do the same thing. I write in a journal. This has turned into a massively time-consuming endeavor. I feel better when I finish, but I’d better go to bed an hour earlier if I plan on doing it before bed.

I started out buying those books that are used in school. They’re cheap and I can get loads of them with different colors and characters. Then I discovered the leather bound, very expensive ones at the bookstore. Oh, my word! They are so cool! I began looking for my next one before I even finished the one I was filling. This made journaling feel like I was writing for my kids and grandkids. I still wrote the truth about myself and what I was thinking, but I started thinking they’d be more likely to read the ones that were the coolest.

Fiction.

I’ve been writing fiction for a long time. I’ve never published any. But, I did go to school to learn how to do it. I still don’t feel like I’ve learned how to do it. Weird, right?

When I got divorced I needed someplace to put my anger. I was furious. Lies were told about me and assumptions that were just not true were made. It was terrible.

So, I killed my ex-husband.

Okay, I didn’t actually kill him. I was writing a novel for practice and I decided to model the bad guy after my ex-husband. Things had begun to get worse before we divorced. I think most marriages that are falling apart experience the same thing. But me, I was writing a book and I wanted the bad guy to be killed horribly during a chase scene. I needed a little information about how it might happen from an expert. My ex-husband was going to be my bad guy!

The scene takes place on Puget Sound and involves a cigarette boat running headlong into the propeller of a super ferry. I wanted to know if it would kill him and if the boat was going to be blown to bits. He was very nice and answered all my questions.

Oh yeah. He would be very dead and there would be many bits and pieces.

<Jumping for joy!>

Alright, here’s what I think. Getting the junk out of our brains is really important. Holding onto stuff: the pineapples and bananas in our brains is a super bad thing to do and helps to ruin our mental health. Writing in any form: fiction, non-fiction, fan fiction, journaling, pad to scribble on, post-it pads, computer paper – then burning it, etc.)

Oh, blogging is a great thing to do too. You can use any of the kind of writing in a blog as well. Have fun doing your brain dump!

Grass – A Very Short Story

Smoking CannibisThis is an assignment we had in class Tuesday.

WRITING PROMPT: Some people might think it strange that I like…..

Some people might think it strange that I like grass. Yep. That’s what I said.

Maya, a fellow student, said that this isn’t such surprising. After all, I was raised on a ranch. You know, we had horses. Horses love grass. So no. Not surprising that I like grass.

It was May 18, 1980, and I was a year away from graduating, from high school. Today it’s May 22, 2018, and I’m about to graduate again. This time it will be from the university.

You know what binds these two important events together? Grass. Green, green grass. I love grass… for the horses that is.

Grass was so illegal back then. Eighteen years ago the only news events that I recall were the local Carbone Family weed bust and mountain St. Helens here in Washington State blowing up.

Today I find I’m still involved with grass, again. Green, green grass. All grass starts out green, but eventually its able to be used.

Best conversation I ever had was with my son… and grass. Yep grass, green, green grass. He was so mellow. So honest and likable. I love grass.

Horses… kids… grass, green, green grass. Yes, starts out green, but when its ready it changes and it’s ready to give my son and I more chances to have honest, loving chats.

Some might think it strange, that I love grass, yep, I love me some green, green grass.

[This is from a prompt in my Advanced Fiction Writing class at UWT in the spring of 2018, my last quarter before graduating. Not a great bit of writing, but it was done in less than ten minutes and it got a lot of laughter and clapping.]

Bipolar – Holding Out My Hands

I’ve been trying to reach a young woman that I am in the same major in at UWT regarding her mental health. To me, it is obvious that she has Bipolar Disorder or something similar. I’ve been in classes with her for three years now. Wow, that’s the entire time that I’ve been going to school there.

I care about this woman and I want to be able to help her understand what’s happening to her. Very often she feels out of control. Outwardly, she’s very loud and emotional. Her emotions are so strong that she disturbs people around her. I really want to get through to her. Our mutual friend knows both our stories and she knows that I’ve been trying to reach her.

We have a friend in common and the three of us have a sort of writers group. We meet one or two times a week after class. I’ve been listening to her and feeling empathic towards her. It hurts me to see her in so much pain, and so confused.

I’ve told her I have Bipolar 1 since last year. It has seemed like she doesn’t understand what I’m telling her when I try to communicate Bipolar to Bipolar… until today. Today I felt that I finally made some headway with her. Our mutual friend agrees.

There were two important things I really wanted to communicate to her and I think I might have gotten through.

  1. You have to work hard to understand this illness and learn how to deal with it. She’s been freaking out about how much we have to do at school. She wants to know how I control it so I can do my school work. Understand, information and planning help me get through.
  2. You have Bipolar Disorder and it will be with you until you die. This is not an illness that you will be healed from. It’s not like the flu in that it runs its course and then it goes away. It isn’t a cold or even cancer which can go into remission. We have ups and downs. Sometimes we do better than other times. Sometimes we’re paralyzed and unable to even breathe. Understand this, you will never be rid of this illness. It will be with you always. You must learn to live with it, understand it and try to use it. Be prepared. Have a safety net. See what I’m doing? You must learn about this illness. It is a beast and you must be brave and face it down.

She asked how I deal with the school work. She and I have a class together and we are both doing an independent study program one on one with the same professor. This professor is amazing. She has high standards and demands a lot of us.

How do I get it done? She’s been feeling so depressed and having such anxiety that she’s struggling to get anything done at all.

There are no simple answers, no quick fixes. Remember what I said.

  1. Learn to understand the beast. Ignorance only makes it worse.
  2. You will have this until you die. Be prepared to deal with it every day. Don’t try to ignore it. Fight it. Then I added a third thing she could do.
  3. Work to master your mind in every way you can. Try mindfulness. I’m trying it. We need every advantage that we can find.

I’ve been dealing with Bipolar Disorder for a long time. I’ve worked a little and a lot and failed and succeeded. I understand the beast and I know what it wants from me. I’m doing okay. I’m able to reach out and teach a fellow sufferer. She is so young. This is so new to her. I think, I hope, that today I was finally able to reach her. I think she is starting to understand that I’ve walked this path for a long time and I might have ideas on how to not crash, on how not to burn.

So today that’s what I want to say. Reach out to others who you identify with. If you can, try to share your experiences and help another person. If you don’t know anyone you in person that you can reach out to try to find someone online to support. If you read someone’s blog and you know they have Bipolar Disorder too, leave them a comment. Say something nice. Encourage them. Let them know they are not alone.

I will continue to reach out to my young friend. I will continue to hope that I can reach her. I will be vulnerable with her so she can see that I understand and that I can stand with her.

Okay. I’m manic. Is it obvious? Feel the pressured speech? See me going on and on? Yeah. Manic.

Be well.

Bipolar – Hidden Emotions

After months of not really feeling anything accept sever anxiety, my emotions are waking up again. I’m hoping that all the months of counseling have prepared me for my feelings, my moods.

I took a poetry class this last quarter. I had a difficult time writing the poetry because my emotions were packed away in a closet inside my brain. I wrote very clinically, very much cerebral and didn’t feel inspired or moved at all.

I’m enrolled in the disability program at the college and one of the things I get is time and a half for exams. Of course there aren’t exams in poetry, but the first quarter that I had this professor with I’d gone in and went over my disability papers with her and explained about how this was my first year back to college and I that was having a hard time. I took a chance and told her about my having Bipolar. I haven’t really thought it was necessary to tell my other professors what my disability is, but I felt like I was connecting with this professor and I also felt like I would be able to come and her and talk if I needed to.

I talked to her about how my BP was affecting my writing and she suggested I read “Touched with Fire” by Kay Redfield Jamison to see how many artistic people have mental illness (especially Bipolar Disorder). Funny thing was, I have read it. I’ve spent so much time in it that the pages have come off the spine of the book and nearly every page has notes and things underlined in it. It is in such bad shape that I purchased another copy so I could read it again. This is one of those books I bought in paper back and not as an eBook. If I have a book I want to markup I always get it in print. It’s just easier for me to make notes and find things in.

The first thing I encountered in Jamison’s book was a through recounting of all the symptoms having to do with Bipolar Disorder. Having been only anxious and not having mood swings for a few months per se, I was shocked as I remembered all the emotions that are currently hiding behind my medications.

I’m glad that I read what the symptoms are again because of the fact that we’ve lowered my Latuda and I need to be on the watch for symptoms to return. I have to admit, I’m worried now. I forgot how bad it has been for me. I rate on the top of the Bipolar Disorder Type 1, but I’m also high functioning so I’ve been able to hide it from most people. At least I think I have. Who really knows what others think of us when we’re in the midst of an active outburst of violent emotions.

So here I go, with an intentionally lowered mood stabilizer, and me waiting to see if any of my old enemies come sauntering out of the closet. I must remember not to hold my breath.