Friday, January 23, 2009

Crazy Talk

I've mentioned in the past that I'm bipolar. I'd have to research my own blog to find out what I've said, but I want to talk a bit about the symptoms, the treatment, and family. I use the term family loosely because who ever you love is your family as far as I'm concerned. And family is where I want to start.

Bipolar disorder is very hard for a family member who is not bipolar to deal with. Sometimes it's awfully hard to know what is personality and what is disorder and what's PMS. "Normal" is a hard psychological trait to measure. Too normal and we're dull as dust. But crazy has a big fat book with symptoms and graphs, and the weight of both law and medicine to measure how just how crazy is too crazy to function in the "normal" world. I'm so crazy I'm disabled. Legally disabled.

But you say, "You seem able to write every day. How can you do that if your disabled?" And I say, I always wrote. I just didn't have a blog. Sometimes I couldn't read the scribble that was my writing, but even bat-shit crazy I wrote, documenting every little thing, taking notes as if life were a class and there would be a test. I also read like it was a full time job and I was getting paid by the page. Both those occupations allowed me to be alone a lot. And the thing about being alone is the relief of not having to pay attention to someone else and their needs.

Another symptom is "inappropriate" sexual behavior. I think the word "inappropriate" means with someone too young, or too old, or just met. It also applies to what some call "sex addiction."

We tend to self-medicate. For most that means alcohol (legal and easy to get) for others it might be pot or heroine or meth. For others it means, a plethora of other drugs, but the one drug most Shrinks don't blink at is cigarettes. Nicotine is a good antidepressant and plays well with other bipolar drugs. I found it interesting that in the Bin, we were all sent out into the open air to puff away on our cigarettes. Mormons with bipolar disorder in the Bin with us were given nicotine gum.

The one symptom of my illness that isn't fairly well managed with two drugs twice a day, is my intense need to isolate. It is also what makes it possible to write and read to the exclusion of all else. I also engage in obsessive news watching, and then there is need for food cooking and cleaning up after cooking and foraging for food and feeding Cyrus. But, whereas most of you work full time, raise children, have a social life, keep your pets alive, and your spouse or lover happy enough to stay, I do none of those things. I make no room for anyone else. I keep all but one or two friends at arms length. I might be good for a visit from a close friend for an hour or two, but that's my limit. I can attend to the needs of another only that long. This makes me a big selfish asshole. But did you ever think it might be for your own safety? Maybe I'm doing you a big fat favor.

If my bipolar disorder where not well managed I would be signing up for every credit card company dumb enough to send me the invite. Then I'd go shopping. Compulsive shopping is a huge symptom. I was once a woman who really loved to shop, a woman who bought what she didn't need or even want, just because it was a great buy or on a whim I thought I loved it. All these shopping sprees create another problem that is common to those with bipolar disorder. DEBT. And in the end, in a bad economy, crushing debt leads to bankruptcy. This is not to say that all these things aren't done by perfectly normal healthy people, but add another symptom or two and Bingo! You might have a family member who is bipolar, and if you have one family member with bipolar disorder there are probably more. Moody? Life of the party one minute and sobbing the next? It could be PMS, or the boss, or the guy who dumped you, or it could be bipolar disorder. A child who everyone says is too sensitive? That was me. Too tired to get out of bed and feeling like you've been lobotomized? Could be a hangover or the flue unless it lasts for weeks or months or years. Occasionally having fits of rage? Dramatic and angry, exciting and too happy, too exciting? Finding life too hard to live? Well, welcome to my world. Do I enjoy this? Not that part. I do enjoy the fire in brain that keeps my fingers dancing on the keyboard. I do enjoy the complete and utter focus of the mind's creation. There is magic in the creative act no matter what the medium. But is it art? Who the hell knows? Probably not. It might just be a necessity. But the medical journals are full of histories and great stories of very famous creative types who were/are bipolar. We tend to be very creative people. We also tend to be very difficult. And finally we tend to commit suicide.

The really bad news for us and our families is that this disorder is incurable and genetic. It runs in families. Often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Most genetic diseases have one DNA marker. Bipolar disorder has two. It gets worse with age. And though there are some very good drugs, there comes a point when the good old drug no longer works and you have to experiment with something new. It's hit or miss. And all the drugs have side effects. I'm currently on a drug that adds 20 to 40 pounds of drug weight. If I were to switch to Zoloft I'd lose some of the drug weight. But then I wouldn't be able to dream. The weight gain of so many of the bipolar drugs keeps a lot of women from compliance with taking their medicine. There are also problems with lowered sex drive (I say good riddance) but for many people this is a serious problem. And a big (pardon the pun) reason for men to be noncompliant with taking their medicine.

I think we're a pain in the ass to live with. I do not chose other people with bipolar disorder to hang out with. We're either too much fun or a real drag. Sobbing for no reason or hysterical laughter. Always out of sync. Would you chose to hang out with someone like that? I once asked Tom why he hung in there for so long. He said it was an interesting challenge. He could have just said he loved me.


Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

judging by your description, a lot more of us are bipolar than either care to admit or have been diagnosed....

I've missed seeing you round ... hope you are hanging tough.

Utah Savage said...

I'm trying to get the novel ready to enter in a contest. So don't take it personally. But I'm so glad to see you. Are you home at last?

Amos said...

Indeed he could said "Because I love you"

Amos said...

Geez, what I ment to say was,he should have said Because I love you, which is the real reason he stayed.

Stella by Starlight said...

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien, you are absolutely right:

* Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million American adults, or about 2.6 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.1

* The median age of onset for bipolar disorders is 25 years


There's a great site called Bipolar Poetry, Utah. Here's one I liked:

And in the moment of all this bliss,
I think to myself;
How long will it stay like this?
When will the next period of sorrow
Or the next fit of rage,
Come out and play?
When will it turn the page
To a long chapter book?
The many chapters are my moods
Which turn so rapidly
A suspenseful book
Which is my life.

I hope you all have a chance to enjoy the site.

Ghost Dansing said...

nice piece Utah....

Utah Savage said...

Amos, amen. He could have, but he never did.

Stella, thanks for that link. I put in my favorites so I can look in daily--I might even be able to contribute.

Thanks Ghost.

Unknown said...

While I would (like to) be the last to minimize psychic torment, don't the classic traits include a few positives?
In truth, I can only imagine the trouble, since my own "very difficult personality" falls short of text-book illness.
Yet, I do wonder if the intense, solitary focus serious writing demands--for, let's say, six hours, five days a week, twenty years--doesn't turn the hardiest of us into "quivering wrecks."
Sure, genetics may explain it all, including how we live and what we do. But a serious writer is either soaring on adrenaline from reaching past the ordinary world. Or, the futility of her endeavor has intruded, all but paralyzing her.
As for the rest of us? Oh how dreary life would be without her valiant struggles!

Beach Bum said...

One of my cousins is bipolar. He is a very talented artist who has literally been chased by several illustration companies who wanted to hire him. Also he has an ability with math that borders on art itself. But for reasons I haven't been told his bipolar symptoms are very hard to control and he spends most of his time in his room. He is living with my uncle and his wife and I really worry about him.

lisahgolden said...

What a great piece of writing. I suspect when MathMan reads this, he will look over the top of his laptop at me, seeing some hints of recognition.

Unknown said...

I am peering over my laptop...

D.K. Raed said...

OMG, it gets WORSE as you get older? I've got a bipolar brother who has become impossible. My very existence seems to piss him off. I cannot talk to him at all because he doesn't hear a word I say. Every "conversation" ends up with him screaming nonstop at me until I walk away. Of course, the fact that he refuses medical help is a big problem. He thinks he can think his way out of BP. Symptoms began about 15-yrs ago with a trigger. Reading your blog has helped me understand him a bit better, but it is still very hard. Don't know that there's anything you can say. Guess I just felt like venting. Sorry.

Utah Savage said...

DK, I wrote this for you, not me. I know many of you have relatives who are bipolar. It is too prevalent for you all to have escaped scott free. He cannot think his way out. He sounds manic. Manic can get psychotic real fast. Psychotic can be dangerous. Good luck. But he does need a Psychiatrist. And he does need to be on medication. But sounds like that's going to be a real challenge. Good luck DK.

D.K. Raed said...

I know you are right, UT. I do often wonder if he is dangerous to others. I know he is dangerous to himself. Thanks for understanding what I was trying to express. See, I really do glean helpful hints from your blog! You are therapuetic.

susan said...

You may be bipolar but you have a very singular talent for writing well about what goes on inside. The description:'crazy has a big fat book with symptoms and graphs, and the weight of both law and medicine to measure how just how crazy is too crazy to function' is very apt. So many of us are damaged but our need to understand and compensate in order to function in the world is what makes us transcendent beings. You can't transcend without obstacles to overcome. Each and every one of us will leave off living one day and nobody knows the time, place and manner of our departure. Thank goodness for that and for the fact of your own bravery and ingenious prose. If one understands 'crazy' then just how crazy can one really be?

Utah Savage said...

Susan, you have provided me the best laugh of the day. Yes, I do indeed "understand Crazy" which does make me seem rather sane doesn't it? Crazy like a rabid fox?

Freida Bee said...

Utah- I have like 5 disorders, according to my own personal diagnosing, though the docs have tld me straight up, "Well, you may have four symptoms of such and such, but our technical definition requires five." Whatever you call it, my mom's side of the family is rife with mental issues, some evident in my own kids as well. It's sad to see in my brothers and I suspect some Asberger's going on in a few, my mom, my son, and myself included, but I just chunk along as best as I can peeling myself out of the house as life seems to make me do.

I dream quite well on Z, but the weight loss and weight gain has oscillated back and forth- and I have the thyroid issues.

I am very worried about my daughter right now. She's being shifted to Abilify and off lithium for now, with a lil' Prozac on the side. I am hoping it helps. I had things calm down from my eating disorder drinking to blackout days in recent years, and I think the raging I used to do was PTSD.

Oh gawd, what a spewing forth.

I'm just glad that you allow me at this arm's length, where I am fairly comfortable, with a lil' intimate makin' out here and there for those special moments.

My Al Anon sponsor I had for years, and never see anymore, used to say the thing I can say to myself anytime I need, "What do you need to do to take care of yourself?" That's about all that can be done.

Mauigirl said...

I always thought my father had undiagnosed bipolar disorder. When he was young and when he was much older he had long periods of extended clinical depression. But during his working years he was more upbeat - but still prone to depressed moods alternating with very up moods. When he was "up" he talked a lot - talked one's ear off, in fact - and was the life of the party type. The other thing he used to do is fly into terrible rages over small things. Sounds very similar to what you are talking about. He didn't go so far as to waste a lot of money shopping for things but he was prone to impulsive major purchases from time to time. And yes, he was very hard to live with but he and I eventually got along once I no longer lived at home.

His granddaughter (my half niece) is bipolar and not able to work. His other daughter (my half sister) and I have apparently escaped bipolar disorder but both of us have our melancholy states of mind and are taking antidepressants. It really is something that runs in families, for sure.

Fran said...

I don't always comment but I read almost every post you put up.

This is one of my best. Your talent never fails to astound me. Your honesty is the grout the holds the talent in place.

Utah Savage said...

Ah FranIAm, you so often move me to tears. Thank you for talking now.

Dave Dubya said...

I've lived among, and worked with, people with psychiatric "disorders" my entire life. I don't think there is such a thing as "normal" and distrust anyone who claims to be so.

Every person has something valuable to contribute to our society, and they all deserve love, respect and compassion.

That said, there are the heartless sociopathic types who are "sane" enough to view the entire mass of humanity as nothing more than objects to manipulate for their own amusement and profit.

The Dick Cheneys and Ted Bundys of the world are truly less than human by their lack of regard for others. They are the dangerous ilk society needs to restrain. Those are the ones we need to stigmatize for our own protection.

All the rest of us have emotional issues that humanize us. We also understand the simple reality that we do need others, both to care about us, and for us to care for.

I just want you to know there are other, sometimes frail, fellow humans who care about you.

immbas said...

Mathematically speaking, there is always a "normal"'s just that pinning it down is quite difficult. Sort of like there's always a "median" and there's always a "mode." But it's hard to do that with humans, although, we all know it's there.

Excellent post, Utah, you're a great thinker and writer. Your last sentences, however, with the word "chose" I think should be "choose." Right? Hmm. I hope I run into one of your posts came up on one of my google alerts for "bipolar" since you used the word in our blog.

Have you ever read the book, "Mad in America" ? Might be worth your time.