After the Rush
When I came again to awareness, three days had passed. My spiral notebook lay on the floor, next to the sofa, where I had undoubtedly left it on Tuesday. Nothing had been crossed off the "things to do" list I had written three days previously. I'd been away in the fog.
I knew the day was Friday, June 11th, because I looked on the calendar. President Reagan's Ceremonial passing had filled the airways on the television all week. Finally the fortieth President was interred. His awareness of life has passed. With that being done and complete, I've become aware that my awareness is off.
I know I didn't lose three entire days watching Americans offering final respects to a flagged draped coffin. Current history and information seen on television in this age of media has changed from the days of military newsreels shown along with the moving picture show. Now it is an immediacy. We, en masse, are there.
But, today is Friday. Three days vanished from my life. Three days, just gone. I lived it, but I was unaware. This has happened before.
I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I have no scratches or scars visible on my body to show this affliction. "They" call it a mental illness. It effects behavior.
The now politically incorrect terminology for this disorder is manic-depression. Somebody must've decided to soften the emotional impact with gentler sounding words. It doesn't change the facts of what the disorder entails: mania and depression.
Our society's therapists decided we didn't like being called manic-depressive. Yet these words explain exactly what the problem is.
Sometimes, the person has a problem with depression, and sometimes the person has a problem with mania. Sometimes the person has a problem with both at the same time. This is difficult to experience, much less explain.
My explanations don't necessarily hold for all bipolars, although many experience similar symptoms. I've never run across another bipolar person whose moods fluctuate with the seasons, as do mine. A psychiatrist I saw previously attempted to explain to me that I could not possibly be affected by the sun's rays because I don't live in the Antarctic. He didn't agree with many of my theories about my life, and I don't see him anymore. Even being labeled crazy doesn't mean you shouldn't trust your own instincts.
They don't tell bipolars that some doctors have no practical experience, only book education, a closed mind, and that their sort of help is no help at all. Nine years into my diagnosis, I've figured that out myself. Trial and error has proven the best route for treating my problem.
My seasonal depression begins about the time of year when the clocks are turned back for daylight savings. I came to this realization myself, after finally noticing I had become depressed every year between October and December for four years in a row, in different environments.
At that time the doctor gave my anti-depressants, not realizing that I would swing the other way--into mania--if the antidepressant were given in excess of that required by my particular body chemistry.
Not having had a long-term significant other sharing my roof, I don't have a built-in behaviour observer for myself. I find it difficult to observe my own behaviour, especially recognizing situations with negative consequences, in the in the big picture of life.
I can see the trees, but I can't see the forest. Perceptions change. Sometimes my mental perspective changes a dozen times in one hour, without me being particularly aware of it. That is called rapid cycling. There's terminology for most every behaviour.
I know from experience, that during manic episodes, ideas and events happen at an extremely fast pace. I can't seem to catch up with myself. Different nervous system transmitters are firing, because of the biochemistry my body creates for itself.
Being manic, the "up" end of the pendulum swing, is very similar to the effects a person would experience on cocaine.
So during the manic sitauation, or episode, I'm dealing with my body making it's own cocaine. Those things cocaine users seek, happen to me, without going for the score, or consuming any street drug.
As a matter of fact, I have no input or control as to how much happiness, or how high, my mania makes me. I could become dangerously compulsive and impulsive, without observations by friends who know me well, and help me in monitoring my behaviour.
More than once, I've been dissuaded from spending extravagantly, on what seemed to me like a good expenditure of capital at the time. Why do airplanes and Las Vegas exsist, if not as a playground for a manically inclined person, fully bedecked with sequins and rhinestones?
When manic, bizarre, unusual, and attention attracting clothing is the norm, and just another part of the scene. This extreme dressing is usually unintentional.
Were I ever actually make it as far as the airport, gambling and drinking would be only two of the vices I would pursue. On a "good episode," I might even invent new vices!
When manic, my brain generates more thoughts than I can process, or act on, or that I can comprehend in totality. An episode of bipolar mania feels like being in the middle of an emotional tornado. Emotions vent from the slightest of causes, setting me into crying jags. Episodes are self-destructive by definition.
The concept of being overwhelmed, catches only a glint toward explaining what it feels like inside this particular awareness. When I'm not "in" an episode, my life flows along fine, much like anyone's. This is not the case for all bipolars.
I've been told by a case worker that as I age, my episodes will become more frequent and more intense. I chose not to belive her, although the summer of 2004 has been the most difficult.
While out of town, in Reno, Nevada, at a Labor Day Weekend writer's conference, I lost myself for 30 hours. I had traveled alone, and woke up Tuesday morning, having slept through all day Monday.
My departure was arranged in a non-negotiable ticket, departure in less than in two hours when I fully woke up. Other than leaving a few clothes behind, and heart palpitations that literally knocked me breathless, I managed okay.
I remember being tired at 6:00 am Monday, having completed the overwhelming self-imposed task of handwriting 50 personalized notes on packets of my work, planning to distibute them at the 7:00 am awards session, Monday morning.
I remember feeling ready to burst emotionally, when I indulged in a ten minute cat-nap. After networking for two days, only somewhat distracted by the casinos and entertainment, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I "stirred," waking but not coming to full consciousness, three times during that day and a half. I couldn't wake up.
An episode, which appears for no particular reason, may make me so different that I have to check into a psych hospital, and be fed numerous anti-psychotic cocktails. Doctors heavily medicate to obliterate the mania. It obliterates everything else too.
When I'm in a manic state, I feel like I'm walking two steps behind of where I'm supposed to be. Consequently, there's a rushing about to life that provides an adrenalin rush on top of the mania. It's a never ending (until medication) cycle upwards. Fast speech is something else that happens, unawares.
One of the symptoms of mania I feel is a determination that breaks out from my soul, and it won't let me sit still, and be peaceful. It keeps me inanely busy, and I do run around like a character from Alice in Wonderland, mumbling about being late.
Sometimes, in my opinion, good things can come out of the early stage called hypo mania. This terminology refers to a little bit, a small amount, of mania, when one's productivity or creativity is increased, but one still has some comprehension of what is actually possible and the focus to complete the job.
Perhaps Michaelangelo was manic when he signed on to paint the Sistine Chapel (reference, InTouched with Fire, by Kay Redfield Jamison,1996). Many poets, artists, and literary types of the Eithteenth and Nineteenth Centuries have behaviour documenting either bipolar disorder or schizenophrenia type issues in their lives. People with these "disorders" are not less as humans, but are rather more inclinded to some peculiar kind of genius. Many never get past the struggle for survival itself, believing suicide to be an option.
During a manic episode, physical energy seems vast and rich, enabling the bipolar person to take on tasks they wouldn't ordinaritly even consider. No task seems unattainable, no challenge undauntable.
Unfortunately, most often these tasks, or behaviours, are not completed. Nothing gets finished. Incomplete projects litter not only my living room and my bedroom, but are stuffed away in little nooks and crannies all over my house.
Many of these tremendous tasks may be going on in physical reality, or being planned out in the person's head.
From my experience, if I'm not doing it, I'm thinking about it. The thinking cycle gets me so wound up, I don't know where to start. I can't find the beginning.
"Yes, I'd like to fix my life, but do I have to figure my entire existence out right now?"
My brain replies, "Yes, you must figure it all out right now."
I sigh, a welcome sign of some relief this evening.
Perhaps I will try to solve the problems of the world, if I attempt to go to sleep before my body is ready tonight.
As a partial excuse for my loss of days this week, I did finally go to the doctor about a germ nagging my chest and sinuses. He prescribed some pills that have made me feel better. Parts of that three day period was spent in sleep. However, in the meantime, I've discovered I seem to be in the middle of a bad humour of which I can't rid myself. The sinus medication could be affecting my moods, and counter effecting my current bipolar meds.
As soon as my doctor gets me stabilized, I may have another new episode on top of it. Major mood situations seldom happen when stressors are off. A solution is maintaining a stress free life. This is easier said than done.
Because I work from home, I've indulged my recent whim to stay up nights. For the past two months, I've had an irregular, but recurring, need to stay awake for a day and a half before I go to sleep. To recovered from a day and a half up, I usually require the good part of the next day down, with a 12 - 18 hour sleep period.
But, because my body has turned on it's "manic button", I'm requiring less sleep than normal. Getting eight hours is becoming not a priority. I will lay in bed and force myself to keep my eyes closed for two hours if I can wind down enough before daylight.
My body will tell me when it's time to go to sleep. The darkness of light, and the brightness of day, have very little consideration when one of these episodes kicks in, or when to need for sleep does finally come.
This is an example of my "three day realization." Generally, three days will pass before I realize a manic episode has taken control over me. I'm not in control of my moods. My moods control me, and I am unaware of it.
A friend who has known me for over fifteen years, jokes that I have 47 personalities, with the list still growing. Because I am bipolar, I find it difficult to distinguish between what is a "passing"' mood, what what is a personality trait that comes urgently and unexpectedly to the fore of life.
I'm not in the proverbial driver's seat of my life. I'm definitely there, going along for the ride, but some decisions, and some behaviours are out of my control. It's a reverse domino theory.
For me, it's difficult to define a period of a mood.
When I'm "in" an episode, I will miss taking care of some daily normal behaviours, like taking a bath, checking the mail, and eating. I lose track of time because of the watch on which my brain functions.
In closing this episode, I record what I am aware of today. Tomorrow will probably find me in an entirely different mood.