a journal of one person with manic-depressive illness

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ideas, Haircuts and Chairs--Oh My!

One of the more pleasant side-effects of mental illness is when you gamble with an idea, and it pays off. Mental illness is a blessing and curse; an onslaught of brain activity that is difficult to sort through and place properly. You may walk out of your house in an original ensemble, cleverly conceived and fashionable while simultaneously regretting the pending embarrassment of a bang trim gone awry.

This last week, my brain has done me proud! No matter the critic, I firmly believe that it is difficult to achieve these results without some talent and/or professional training...with mental illness, from time to time, neither is requisite!

My daughter needed a haircut--so naturally, I gave her one myself with no experience--if I had a friend over, or my husband looking over my shoulder, reason would have steered me far away from success!

Last, and somewhat least, is just a sample of my whimsical imagination. With a flathead screwdriver and dedicated arm, I plucked well over 500 staples from these wood chairs, repairing my homemaking image in just a few hours. Though I should give credit to the ease and convenience of a spray-paint can (probably invented by a manic/depressive). The bold colors matched with a traditional finish? A gamble this untrained eye would make again!

But throughout history, there are many more notable gambles that have enriched cultures, and lasted much longer than a haircut and dining room set. Many historians suspect that Leonardo Da Vinci, Mozart, and John Adams (well, the latter is actually my personal assessment) were manic/depressives. So that begs the question: Compared to their intellectual triumphs, can I really be considered a manic/depressive?

Perhaps this whole post is a bit ridiculous. Too late now--all of my mental energy has been expended on a haircut and I'm too lazy to re-write or even delete. But now I have come full-circle---the 'idea' of writing this post was really a manic delusion--and NONE of it is really that compelling.

This post is like a bad bang trim--a gamble that DIDN'T pay off.

Dang it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Chemical Shame

I know this isn't a very en vogue point of view, but I love pharmaceuticals. I don't always love how much they cost me, or the many side effects, but they are nothing short of miraculous. The only thing pharmaceuticals cannot fix, is the inevitable shame of my mental illness.

The hard part is admitting that I need them. Well, actually, it's much harder dealing with the alienating expressions of those who don't appreciate mental illness. To many, being mentally ill is a stain on all aspects of a persons character, and even personality. All of a sudden, you go from being an expressive, pleasant, employable human being, to a mysterious and scary character.

But at times, even to myself, my illness can be scary and mysterious. Manic episodes are like an out-of-body experience, much like experiencing the life of a character in a book. It's boggling to the mind of those who experience suicidal thoughts, because we can look back on those moments and see the delusion with such clarity that it's difficult to explain even to ourselves how our mind reached such a critical point. It's difficult to admit because we can't explain the phenomenon in technical terms to those who really want to understand the illness, the only explanation within my reach is how I felt-which has never been considered empirical. This is not an easy sell to the average person trying to accept your condition as a bona fide illness, "just get up out of bed, then! What's the problem?"

In this regard, it's more simple to be a diabetic or a cancer patient because there are labs, cancer cells, insulin shock, and many other physical ramifications of these illnesses that make the psychology of acceptance much easier. There are letters of condolence, and faithful tears at the funeral of one who died from cancer. When someone dies of suicide, they are typically branded as hellbound sinners who were selfish and ungrateful. A shadow is cast on the family name as they struggle to regain the peace of mind that was lost in that fateful moment.

Much more, it's difficult to measure your spiritual well-being when faced with chronic mood problems. Inspiration and peace are like a goldmine to the chemically-depressed. Isolation, fear and distrust are commonly attributed to the spiritually-lost. Chemical fear obstructs the faith that you cling to with every fiber of your being, even if it is a small mite of spirituality, you never take it for granted. It becomes a battle of the will, much like the olympian who faces physical limitations in contrast to the imaginations of their mind. Sometimes there is triumph, and sadly, statistics highlight the tragic losses of those whose physical limitations could not match their spiritual aspirations.

I harbor shame in my heart. These episodes are difficult to explain to myself, much less the observing eye and ear. The most difficult symptom of this illness is the fear you see in the eyes of your children when you cry uncontrollably. The dissappointment of a loving husband who desires above everything else, your happiness. But every now and then, there is a shining light that warms my soul. I know God hears and answers my many prayers that have been offered in my darkest moments.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Cold Turkey Itch

Two weeks ago, a trip to Virginia left my pills behind in Tennessee. This was a very frustrating turn of events that would have turned the car around if we weren't already halfway to our destination. Coping for a few days without medication isn't the problem. It's going a few days without the kind of medication the requires a 30 day starter pack. Basically, you go a couple of days without the pills, and you have to start the packet over again...which means you don't just go a weekend without proper dosage, you go an entire 30 days without the proper dosage.


But before we even returned back to TN, I attempted to get ahold of my doctor, and failed. So the way forward was clear: cope. I experienced some pretty nasty withdrawals. I had been at the highest dosage of this medicine when I had to quit cold turkey.

This experience was humbling. I am usually the socially adept individual who can get a few laughs from just about anyone, who found herself scratching her arms uncrontrollably and shaking away the chemical imbalance. How do you explain this behavior to others, much less to your own perceptions of yourself? It's difficult to maneuver harsh physical realities with perception.

Arriving back home was a relief, or at least psychological relief--help is on the way. I'm still working up to my original dosage, and no longer experiencing the strange urge to scratch myself, but I am depressed, and have a hard time getting out of bed and starting my day. Functioning is always a challenge in the interim. Nothing is interesting, including this post--but I'm doing it anyway--gotta take the boring in with the excitment.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why Me? Accepting My Crazy Genes

Odds of getting the crazy gene in a family full of crazies is about as inevitable as drawing your name at the family reunion raffle--after your mother bought all of the tickets. And then, the spoils of such prizewinning vary in size, shape, scope, depth and financial cost.

Me? I pulled a couple of those tickets to be sure. However, the realization of such winnings didn't manifest themselves until motherhood. There were, however, many who tried to notify me leading up to my moment of truth. Like an annoying intercom announcement, I was warned many times in the form of dysfunctional relationships, short-lived employment and socially adventurous encounters.

10,000 roommates cannot be wrong. Like my moods, people either loved me or hated me--there was no in-between. But over and again, these blow-ups were explained away in my mind as character flaws of those 'persecuting' me. This is the catch-22 of mental illness. I was too delusional to see my error, and those experiencing my error were uninformed or ill-equipped to handle someone with mental illness. Fault is not relevant.

This is the purpose of the blog: to inform those who encounter this illness, in the people they meet, the people they love, and in themselves.

For me, the question is no longer 'Why Me?' but 'Is there a generic for that?' Acceptance is the first step to finding peace of mind. And mind is the matter.