Mania and Me

Warning: This is not a feel-good post, nor is it a poor me post. This is a real, unedited, unfiltered informational post about mania and my manic experience in general. The important thing to remember is I know the way back with my eyes closed and I am not currently a danger to myself or others.

The first thing that signals the possibility of an emerging manic state is irritation for me. To be clear, humans irritate me about 98% of the time on a good day, so this is another level of irritation. Something that I would typically be able to react to for a moment, then let go becomes something that literally consumes my every thought, emotion and action. I can hold a grudge like a lover leaving for a long voyage, desperately and tightly, every muscle in my body in a death grip. Like a locked jaw on a mad dog, I cannot let go. My logical, Spock-like mind has been hijacked, gagged and bound and locked in a deep hole in a dark place no one can find. I am once again feeling as though the conductor’s chair is unmanned and the train is still running full speed ahead to an abruptly ending track and off the cliff we go…weeeeee! (but that’s much later)

The next thing that happens is a rage that, alongside the fixation, works me into a state where my heart is pounding, my pulse is racing and my thoughts are a cyclone of incomplete thoughts, repeating themes and an overall sense of chaos and loss of control.

Enter the third stage – control. What can I possibly control in this shit storm called my life? One thing and one thing only; what I eat, or don’t eat. I developed this skill growing up and some of you know the backstory, but it is not really important in this particular situation. I will literally starve myself because the powerful illusion of control that it provides is like heroin to a junkie or good sex to a sex addict; a nice tall glass of Scotch for the alcoholic or a crazy good sale with someone paying for it for the shopping addict or all of the above for me. Fill in the blank, you know what I mean.

The next and last step is to shelter and seek help. Whether that means leaving work, placing a call to my psychiatrist, a friend or all of the above. I know where this road goes, I know how the early stages feel like a blessing with more energy, thoughts and ideas flowing like rivers after the thaw, white waters raging powerfully. At some point, I’m not riding the waters, I’m under them. That’s typically when things have gone a bit too far. I like to believe that I am a strong person, but I am no fool. Mania is not a fuzzy, cute kitten that purrs and cuddles; it is an attacking lion, blood thirsty and lethal. Left alone and untreated, it is death; death of sanity, death of reason, of sound mind and spirit.

So, I’m off to call the good doctor, yet again. If I were to say that I am tired of this fight, it would be yet another statement of the obvious. There is no alternative that is a good alternative; wishful thinking and willpower will get me only one thing and that’s dead and/or delusional. Neither one looks good on me, so fight on I will.

Thanks for being there, for accepting me, the good, the bad and the “Oh My God Did She Just Do/Say That?”

Thank you for extending a hand, lending a shoulder and for drawing me out when I wanted to fade to black. I consider myself one of the fortunate ones, like someone who is struck by lightning, not once or twice, but many times and still lives to tell the tale. That’s my silver lining, making lemonade from lemons. It’s never all good or all bad, only more lessons to learn from, more opportunities to adapt, overcome and excel.

For educational information, resources  and/or to get involved, please click on the link below to go to the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) website.

https://www.nami.org/About-NAMI

 

Not So Happy Holidays

Well, we have made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas, now all eyes are looking toward the New Year and the promise of new beginnings. Some will look upon the end of the holiday season with a sadness, a realization that the magic of the season has left along with the clearance-priced ornaments, Christmas cards and the ever-present box of chocolates. Others will welcome an end to the forced cheerfulness, the endless demands of the holiday season, including but not limited to Black Friday shopping, the unspoken expectation that everything must be FESTIVE and everyone should be DELIRIOUS WITH HAPPINESS. You must get the perfect gift, sit alongside family members you haven’t spoken to all year and do your best imitation of a happy, loving family. I think more effort is spent each year acting like we are happy, not alone or lonely; pretending we are immersed in the joy of the season, when in reality, we are immersed in a sadness that colors all the holiday lights a brighter shade of grey because everything and everyone is grey. For those of us who feel this way during the holidays, there doesn’t seem to be a place where we can just be what we are, which ultimately is some degree of depressed. Maybe it’s the forced merriment, maybe it’s the manic pace of the season, the never-ending demands of shopping, decorating, attending parties, kisses under the mistletoe and boatloads of eggnog or the over abundance of alcohol and sugar-laden foods or maybe it’s just the fact that we can’t be with the one we want, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because the holidays always make us think of family members who are no longer with us, loved ones who maybe don’t love us like they used to, family that isn’t quite family any more. Maybe it’s because the real message of Christmas has been drowned out by the crass commercialism and unrealistic expectations set forth by some ad folks in some corporation somewhere. Whatever the reason, no matter how many, those of us who struggle through the holidays don’t stop struggling when the holiday season comes to a close. If anything, we may experience some tiny measure of relief when they pass, but depression is not a seasonal disorder; it is a year-round, take no holidays, 24/7 kind of condition.

My wish is for the spirit of Christmas (the real spirit) to burn brightly within my heart, be shown in my actions and be shared with all I encounter, this New Year and all throughout the years. Just because the calendar says January and the Christmas tree and decorations have been taken down, the Christmas music has (FINALLY) stopped playing in the stores doesn’t mean that goodwill towards your fellow man has to be put away, too. Keep those thoughts in the fore front of your mind, keep the love alive in your heart and above all else, love yourself, celebrate everything that makes you who you are, even if you’re not crazy about those traits. I personally am not overjoyed when my mood takes a trip on the Rocky Roller Coaster ride that only bipolar disorder could design but it’s a part of me; it’s not a curse nor is it a blessing, just a part of me as much as my curly hair and hazel eyes. It has taken me a long time to accept it, not rage against the unfairness of it all, wishing things could be different while doing nothing to change anything. For the best gift we can give is love; to oneself first and foremost and from that self-love, we can send it out to others.

If there is someone you haven’t connected with in a while and they’ve been on your mind, pick up the phone, give them a call and reach out. Chances are that they are thinking of you, too. We don’t know how many Christmases we will have, how many opportunities to say we love them, we are sorry or we just miss them. The smallest gesture can make the biggest difference to someone who is starved for kindness.

Thank you for your support, your encouragement and your love. You continue to make a difference in my life and I appreciate you tremendously.

Happy New Year to you, my friends.

Happy Birthday Baby Boy

Wow. 26 years have passed since a terrified 20 year old brand-new mother held a miracle in her arms and felt the Universe shift. This tiny, crying miniature man owned my heart the moment our eyes met. The love I felt was unparalleled by any emotion I had ever felt before. There was something else, too; a fierceness in that love. A feeling that I would gladly give my life to save his, that I would tear apart anything and anyone that would try to do him harm. I truly felt as though God Himself had sent this angelic creature to me to save my life, give me a reason to live and remind me of the beauty and light that only children (newborns especially) can bring. I used to think that each and every newborn carried with them a piece of heaven, an invisible blanket of clouds sewn by angels to protect the soul inside the fragile vessel. Every parent knows the feeling, a strange mix of elation, fear, joy and protectiveness; I had never had anything so precious, so completely helpless and dependent upon me for everything. It was a bit overwhelming (especially after about 48 hours of labor, an emergency c-section delivery) but I knew this life we had created was going to change the course of my life, help me to become a stronger person, a better person and would challenge me in many ways (especially the teenage years) and that has been the case. We have literally grown up together, had our fights, our old hurts to work through, I’ve had to take responsibility for causing him pain by the choices I’ve made, the price of being an addict and having a mental illness. I will never be able to undo the past, but I have learned from it and making amends will be a life long work on my part.
But today is about Devon and what he has accomplished in the last year; how he has stretched his wings and flown far outside of his comfort zone and the growth he has achieved for his effort. To say that I am proud of him doesn’t do justice to my feelings. Once again, I am grateful to have such a blessings as a son who is as funny, smart, talented and unique as any I could have dreamed up.

Rock on, Goonie, the world awaits.