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.