How #TheDress Demonstrates Mood Disorder Unwellness

The whole #TheDress thing is a pretty awesome example of how a person’s perception shapes the way they look at the world around them. One’s initial perception may show it as white and gold, but if you look at it long enough, your brain corrects it to the blue and black dress it actually is. It’s the same sort of thing as magic eye puzzles where an image would jump out of the noise at you.

It is an apt demonstration of the way perceptions stained by mood disorder can function as well.

As an example:

I step around a corner and see my partner hugging some guy I don’t know.

Manic: Rage. I knew she was cheating on me. Confrontation, yelling, and general shittiness. (White and Gold Dress)

Depression: I knew it. I’m no good for her or anyone else. Of course she would want to throw me aside. I’m going to lose her. I’m going to lose everything I care about. Self-loathing, maybe self-harm or suicide attempts. (White and Gold Dress)

Truth: Blind accusations are damaging no matter what they are. Even if I don’t necessarily “trust” her; I ask who he is. Maybe he’s a friend from college I had previously met but entirely forgot about. Maybe he’s a cousin I haven’t met. The point is, a hug is no indicator of unfaithfulness. (Blue and Black Dress)

And that is why it is a good example. So many people are looking at this picture of #TheDress and see two different things. When it comes to being bipolar or depressed, we have something similar going on with our feelings and emotions. Except for us, it’s whatever unwell thinking our brain funnels us about our loved ones or today being the day to commit suicide.

The fact of the matter is – the truth is buried in there underneath the emotional instability and unwellness. That’s why I do not trust my emotions when I’m trying to interpret something that is going on in my life. I work to cut through how I feel and push towards the reality of the situation.

I always strive to react without anger or emotion clouding me so the hypomania or depression does not have a chance to creep in and fuck things up by seeding disastrous thoughts in my mind.

So the next time you are looking at a loved one with a mood disorder, wondering what the hell is going on in their head, try and remember that they are seeing the white and gold dress at the moment. Their emotions and perception is clouded by the unstable, often irrational thoughts. Counter their emotions by pointing out facts and adhering tightly to them.

And if you suffer from a mood disorder – be it Anxiety, Depression, or Bipolar Disorder – drastic emotion paves the way for instability. That does not mean you strive not to feel or numb everything. It does mean we should all strive to not respond or react out of emotion. Identify the facts about the situation and address it after you have had a little time to really look at what you’re faced with.

I find myself constantly reminding myself of facts and reality if I am pushing back against unwell thinking. You can envision it like two people arguing in my head. The unwell side is trying to introduce chaotic thoughts and feelings. The other side of my brain is shouting it down with the facts about the situation. I may even write out a list of all of the facts of the situation so when the unwell thoughts start creeping in, I can just go back and read the list I wrote for myself to KNOW what the reality is before my unwellness really starts to take hold.

Unwell cycles typically take a little time to fully get rolling. Not dwelling on the emotions and reminding ourselves that we are actually looking at a blue and black dress, instead of a white and gold dress, can go a long way towards minimizing the total impact of an unwell cycle.

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Should you have thoughts or questions, feel free to comment below or send me an email directly at dennis@bipolarmanifesto.com . I read and reply to everything that I’m sent. I also have many more original articles available on my main website www.bipolarmanifesto.com .

Want to help me out? Consider making a financial contribution. A majority of the funds contributed I turn around and use in marketing efforts to put my body of work in front of more people. Even $1 can put my work in front of a couple dozen more sets of eyes.

Liking and Sharing my content and website on your favorite social media platforms is another great way to help me towards my goal of reaching other people that suffer their mental illness in silence like I did for so many years.

Thank you for reading my work. Have a great day!

-Dennis

Posted in Coping, General | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Normal For You Does Not Mean Normal For All #depression #mooddisorder

Spend any amount of time on social media and you will see proclamations about how there is no “normal” being thrown around. “There is no such thing as normal.” “Normal is just a setting on a washing machine.” Blah blah blah.

There is a normal. I believe that normal is at the most basic level of human existence. My regular readers will know that I have a severe Bipolar-Depression component of Bipolar Disorder. I’ve spent about 80% of my teenage to adult life mired in mild to suicidal Bipolar-Depression ranging from just “fuck it all” to “put a 9mm to my head and pull the trigger on a dud round” suicidal. Though many people equate depression to sadness; it is really more like your feelings are muted (or “depressed”).

The analogy I use to describe it is that of a stained glass window. A stained glass window is alive and vibrant with color when light pours through it. Consider that to be life and normal emotion. Depression is layer after layer after layer of wax paper put over that stained glass window. It diffuses the color, the light, the vibrancy. The wax paper mutes the light and makes it hard to perceive. You look at it, and you know it’s supposed to be bright and vibrant; but all you can perceive is the muted colors trying to get through. At least, until there is so much wax paper on the window that it is all gray.

By and large, that was my normal for a majority of my adult life. Day in, day out. Wake up in the morning, curse silently to myself that I woke up again. Look in the mirror, hate what I see. Grind through another meaningless, pointless day to when I can go back to sleep. Avoid human contact, put on the plastic smile so people will stop asking what’s wrong because I had no idea what’s wrong. And when I dipped far and low enough- contemplate killing myself. Should I unsnap my seat belt, punch it to 100, and hit that bridge support? Should I slit my wrist and step off of the local bridge to ensure I don’t survive this time? Should I drink tonight? Get high? Make it all go away for awhile?

That was my normal, but that is not normal.

Humans are not meant to function in that kind of emotional wasteland. We are social, emotional creatures; even the introverts out there. We are supposed to have feelings; including happiness from time to time! I know it exists. I felt it once, in what I suspect was the window between a dosage increase and my body getting acclimated to it. I felt sad. There was no numbness, no void, no emptiness. I just felt sad and I had that feeling you get behind your eyes when you’re about to cry; but no tears came. Then, I realize I had felt sad without depression and that made me happy and excited. There was no stain of hypomania, no accelerated thinking, no erratic behavior, no unreasonable emotions; just warm and positive even though the overall circumstances were sad.

That’s the only time I remember feeling genuinely happy or sad in probably 20 years. It stands out so starkly in my mind because of how different it felt. The rest of the time? Barring hypomania, I’m standing below that stained glass window, waiting for any kind of light to get through and show me something beautiful. I want it, even if it is something just as simple as feeling good about stepping out into a sunshiny day and listening to birds sing.

I know a lot of people that are depressed who do not realize they are depressed. No, I’m not a doctor or therapist. I am someone who has lived with severe Bipolar-Depression for a long time. I know what it is for the same reason I know what a chair is. It has four legs, a back, sometimes arms, and you sit in it. It’s a common and consistent part of my life. Just as common to me as the void that is depression, if not more so. After all, when I wake up in the middle of the night and stare at the ceiling, I’m not looking at a chair; but my old friend Bipolar-Depression is typically there to greet me.

Anyway, I regularly see the depressed tell themselves that it’s normal to feel placid or nothing constantly. That life is hard. There are wars and famine and cruel injustices in the world; and they should just be thankful for what they have in life instead of striving for better. Depression is incredibly common because of this.

But therein is the problem. Even people in terrible circumstances are able to find a piece of happiness once in awhile. Maybe it’s their child’s smile. Maybe it’s a delicious meal. It doesn’t have to be complicated or grandiose. The point is, they feel something other than emptiness, numbness, and misery. Something other than another gray day to grind through until they can go back to sleep.

The mocking humor in this? Depression is relatively easy to treat. No, it doesn’t necessarily mean shoveling meds down your throat. A change in sleeping and living habits can potentially provide relief. Exercise and dieting can help. There are many routes that could have a beneficial impact on the person that should be explored with a general practitioner.

But they don’t, because it’s “normal” to be gray, miserable, and feel little to nothing.

Normal is being able to conduct your life in a meaningful way. It’s being able to function appropriately in a healthy way. You can be rich, poor, goth, punk, hip-rop, city, country, conservative, liberal; whatever. The unifying factor is the ability to conduct your life in a meaningful way; regardless of how you choose to pursue your existence. THAT is normal.

As for me? I’m a Type 2 Bipolar with a severe Bipolar-Depression component. I’m still staring at that stained glass window, waiting for an antidepressant to cut through the wax paper and let the light flood back in. I catch it in glimpses here and there. I can see it trying. Just going to take some more time and some more work to get to the real normal.

The grayness and chaos of Bipolar-normal for me is not normal for all; even other Bipolars.

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Should you have thoughts or questions, feel free to comment below or send me an email directly at dennis@bipolarmanifesto.com . I read and reply to everything that I’m sent. I also have many more original articles available on my main website www.bipolarmanifesto.com .

Want to help me out? Consider making a financial contribution. A majority of the funds contributed I turn around and use in marketing efforts to put my body of work in front of more people. Even $1 can put my work in front of a couple dozen more sets of eyes.

Liking and Sharing my content and website on your favorite social media platforms is another great way to help me towards my goal of reaching other people that suffer their mental illness in silence like I did for so many years.

Thank you for reading my work. Have a great day!

-Dennis

Posted in Coping, Depression | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Fox Host Tom Sullivan On Bipolar Disorder Being Made Up

Normally, I try and stay away from my personal rants and opinions on things like politics, the news, religion, and so forth. My goal is to provide a comfortable platform of information for anyone that wants it regardless of orientation, beliefs, or whatever.

With that being said, Fox correspondent Tom Sullivan recently stated on his show that people with mental illness have “figured out how to ‘game the system’ by receiving disability benefits”. He then went on to defend Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) false statement that “over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts”.

A caller with Bipolar Disorder attempt to refute his beliefs, although did not have the right information to do so or presence of mind to actually debate the points.

I encourage you to check out Media Matters link provided if you want a direct link to a page with video. I am simply going to address some of the discussion that was cited in the included link.

SULLIVAN: I’m very skeptical. And I’ve got to tell you, if you haven’t been told, I will tell you. I think bipolar is like the latest fad. Everybody and their brother is getting diagnosed with bipolar. And last time I checked, we all have good days and we all have bad. And I don’t consider that an illness. And I don’t consider it a disability.

CALLER: That is very true, however, there are people that have the extremes of that. They have their bad days, are beyond — I mean you literally cannot get out of bed. Not because you don’t, that you don’t want to –

SULLIVAN: What were these people called 25 years ago?

Facts: Having good days and bad days is not criteria for a mental illness diagnosis. Good and bad days to the extremes that they disrupt and prevent you from meaningfully living your life are. An inability to function appropriately in the basics of human existence (use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for an idea), is a reason to at least speak to a professional about it. Does that mean the person should immediately be put on Disability or start shoveling medication down their throat? No.

25 years ago would be 1990. They were called Bipolar people. It wasn’t until 1980 that the DSM-3 changed “Manic-Depression” to “Bipolar Disorder” to accommodate the number of people who fall in the Bipolar spectrum that do not experience “Mania” as a symptom. Hypomania is not mania.

CALLER: Well, you know what, it’s funny –

SULLIVAN: Before they came with this bipolar diagnosis. I mean, I just think it’s something made up by the mental health business just to be able to give people prescriptions and keep them coming in, and keeping you — paying them money.

Facts: The first mention of manic-depression (Bipolar Disorder) as a separate mental illness was about a thousand years ago in The Canon of Medicine in 1025. It’s also been known as the “Circular Disease” before it was Manic-Depression before it was Bipolar Disorder. Physicians from all over the world are noted to have specifically identified it- ranging from the French who pioneered the beliefs of what we know it as today to the Chinese who described it in Eight Treatises on the Nurturing of Life in the 16th century to the Greeks who believed once believed it to be an imbalance of humours. Bipolar Disorder has a long and storied history if you bother to research it at all.

[…]

SULLIVAN: You ever heard of these doctors that say the psychology business is full of basically people — it’s big pharma that’s pushing the whole thing because they make a ton of money? Your parents never would have gotten this. There wasn’t even a diagnosis as bipolar when your parents were your age.

CALLER: No, that’s true.

Facts: This statement is something political figures and pundits use to make their point. It is true that the caller’s parents never would have gotten a Bipolar diagnosis at her age, because the Bipolar diagnosis did not EXIST yet. They would have been diagnosed Manic-Depression. It is not a direct lie, but a misrepresentation of truth through omission of fact. This is something called “spin”. Next time you watch a politician or pundit, listen for phrases like “we think”, “we believe”, “I believe”, “Studies show”. These are weasel word phrases and the basis of spin. That way if the person gets called out on their asinine belief, they can simply say “I didn’t assert it as a fact. I simply said ‘I believe'; an expression of opinion.” Which it is and would be fine if the average listener would separate opinion from fact.

SULLIVAN: So — and you know what? They did just fine. Society did fine. I don’t know, I don’t know why we have to create these new illnesses, and create all these medicines for something that really wasn’t a problem in the first place.

CALLER: Well, I understand what you’re saying. And that is a common, that’s a common feeling for a lot of people. They don’t understand it, and honestly, you won’t understand it until you experience it. And I would never wish this on my worst enemy. But it truly is a disorder and a disease. I know that personally I would not be alive today if it were not for medications and for therapy. Because I would have killed myself. When I was in college, I was there, I almost did it. So if, you know, there are actual problems. I’m actually affected physically, not just mentally, you know, having disabilities –

Facts: No, they did not do just fine. They were ignored like all of the other dirty little facts of society of the era. Mentally ill people were thrown away into mental institutions with less oversight and conditions worse than some maximum security prisons. Society was just as poisonous in your “golden era” as it is today; except then it was flagrant and acceptable.

SULLIVAN: You ever think that maybe, maybe somebody’s talked you into feeling and thinking this way?

CALLER: I wish. No.”

Personal Opinion: No. Because I spent from the time I started cycling at 13 to almost 29 not talking about the suicide attempts and ideation, the delusional thinking of talking to God or being sent messages, of doing horrible things to myself and the people around me. I tried to discuss it twice. Once with a person who I trusted who had beliefs similar to yours, who shut me down immediately as suicidal thoughts being a weakness of character. To my doctor who misdiagnosed me as depressive with all the fun that comes along with being on an antidepressant without a mood stabilizer as a Bipolar person. Surprise, surprise “deal with it” didn’t stop me from falling deep enough into the pit to actually follow through on my suicidal thoughts.

Because of people promoting the idiotic “beliefs” that you have, I spent a majority of that time thinking I was just a shitty person who couldn’t handle responsibility instead of seeking the help and stability that the medical industry and Disability has enabled me to achieve through my own effort.

What you or I “believe” is irrelevant. Try reading a book and learning some facts.

Now, this is normally the time when a blog or writer will tell you; “omg you can make a difference, contact Fox to express your outrage!” Save your energy. It means nothing. They’ll just trot out with a half-assed apology and life will go on as usual; like all the other times this crap has happened over the years.

Want to make an actual difference in your perception and this drivel? Stop listening to pundits, stop watching the networks and shows that support them, and start reading more. Don’t take their word, or my word for a damned thing, go out and read it; research it yourself. The caller, though having good intentions, did not have the ammunition needed to counter these common, ignorant perceptions.

If you want to make a difference in ending stigma, you’re going to have to do better than “Nu uh! You’re wrong!” with people like Sullivan who are gifted communicators in an arena that thrives on being manipulative to work the emotions of audiences to get them tuned back in.

It’s not about being a Republican, Democrat, or Independent; it’s not about being Christian, Muslim, or Pagan; it’s about truth. There is only one truth despite the many, many perceptions of that one truth. Perceptions are simply an opinion of that one truth.

And the truth of this matter is- Bipolar Disorder is a very real mental illness that’s been around for a very long time with high suicide rates in people who go untreated.

What you, Sullivan, or I perceive and believe about that truth is irrelevant. Our beliefs and perceptions do not change those fundamental facts. It’s no different than the discredited MMR vaccine and autism link perpetuated by ignorance and trumpeted by the media.

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Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below or feel free to send me an email dennis@bipolarmanifesto.com at your convenience. I read everything sent to me and will respond to you as soon as possible. I have a number of original articles posted on the main website at www.bipolarmanifesto.com .

If you find this information helpful or think it will benefit someone you know; pass it on! My body of work is to benefit others. Liking/Sharing/Printing off to show someone all accomplish a similar goal of getting it in front of more people. Thank you for taking the time to read my work!

I offer a simple phone consultation service for people that would like to pick my brain in a more focused setting. Head on over to my phone consultation page for more information and an important disclaimer if you are interested.

-Dennis

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

How Can My Bipolar Loved One Be So Awful To Me…

…and appear relatively functional and civil to others?

Alright, let’s get a couple of points out of the way before I dive into this. This post will include a lot of theorycraft and rationalization based on the way I understand the Disorder and my social dysfunction as a High-Functioning Autistic. As an HFA, I’ve spent a lot of time observing people in social situations to learn how to function “correctly”. Read “correctly” as- in a way that won’t be upsetting or alienating in social circumstances. This post will also assume the person is generally a decent person, but becomes awful when they get unwell. Then there are plenty of people who are abusive jerks who also happen to be mentally ill. That’s a whole different ballgame really.

So let’s start with a fictitious, example scenario…

Jenny is an undiagnosed Bipolar with a mildly chaotic history, one that she has taken pains to keep secret out of shame and fear of being stigmatized. Jenny was lucky enough to complete college and secured a management position with a corporation. She’s married to James and they have two children together. The unwell swings Jenny experiences during her life have largely been manageable, but what she doesn’t realize is that the Disorder gets worse with age when left untreated.

What started off as mostly manageable unwellness has steadily degenerated to the point where the kids are afraid of Jenny and James has no idea who this woman is that he married. When she’s well? She’s loving, happy, and wonderful. When she’s unwell? Everyone is on pins and needles to avoid setting her off. As she escalates she becomes verbally abusive, raging, and intimidating.

Jenny is slowly coming apart and the people that catch the worst of it are her friends and family members. At work and socially, she seems to maintain fairly well. She still makes snide comments or picks at people in an aggressive way, but one would not really peg it as symptoms of “unwellness” unless they understood the entirety of Jenny’s life and history.

A Matter of Familiarity

Why do Jenny’s loved ones, friends, and family get the worst of her? The simple answer is familiarity. People do not act the same way in front of strangers or in the workplace as they do with those they know. Each of us has masks we wear when we are talking to certain groups of people.

When she’s at work, Jenny knows she has a professional demeanor to try and maintain. She may be coming across as short, moody, irritable, and impatient. I feel like this has a lot to do with maintaining that work veneer. Let’s face it; most of us would get tossed out on our ass if we acted out what was in our heads while in the work place. Jenny is actively working to maintain the facade, not realizing how much more difficult it actually is because it just seems like a normal part of her day. Her coworkers and general friends are more likely to shrug and go about their day, thinking she’s just moody.

But when she gets home? She’s coming back to her place of security and unwinding. A place where she is not expected to keep up masks. So the Disorder pours out. Being undiagnosed and dealing with the Disorder for so long, she may not be able to recognize that her responses and reactions are irrational. An undiagnosed or uninformed Bipolar doesn’t have the knowledge base to actually identify which of their actions may indicate unwellness and which are them just being angry or short.

It takes a lot of work and energy to actively manage instability. Jenny may be seething at work, wanting to tear off her coworker’s head for some slight- real or imagined. But she doesn’t, because she’s not so far gone that she is still able to realize that she can’t just do that in the work place. And then of course comes the problems with being too far along. Maybe she verbally lays into him and winds up fired or written up for it because the unwellness slipped past her mask.

At home is an entirely different story. There are still things that we keep under wraps even with friends and family members; but after spending all day trying to maintain that facade at work, it comes off because it is so much energy and work. So if Jenny, Jr. spills some milk; the rational response of “Clean up after yourself” instead pours out of her mouth with hate. “What the fuck is wrong with you? You can’t do anything right. If you can’t fucking pour milk right then you don’t deserve it.” And throws the open milk against the wall.

Does escalation make this behavior acceptable? No. But if the person is undiagnosed, how are they supposed to realize how awful they are acting? Or that there is even an option to act differently? A person who lives with this as their “normal” doesn’t necessarily have the context to understand just how awful they are acting until they balance off enough to see clearly.

A Question Of Perception

I have touched on perception a bit previously. Perception is at the heart of Bipolar Disorder and managing it. We nutbags have to understand how the Disorder warps and distorts the way we perceive life. To function through unwell cycles while you are around friends and family members, the Bipolar needs to try and keep some of their masks up so they are actively thinking about what they are saying and doing while unstable.

As someone who has been diagnosed for about six years, gone through cognitive behavioral therapy, and regularly monitors my mental state- I would look at the above situation very differently. My brain may be screaming at me to tell the little fuck to get the hell out of my way- but all that’s coming out of my mouth is “Clean up your mess.” with me walking away. Why do I know I’m hypomanic? Because I identified it days ago through my physical symptoms of not being able to sleep with no tiredness, arrogance, and irrational irritation. So I know that I need to have my mask on and my defenses up so I don’t tear down the people around me.

Someone that is not diagnosed does not have that benefit. Even if they are, they may still not get it exactly right. It’s a tough mask to try and keep on constantly because it does require a ton of mental and emotional energy. Wearing a version of the mask we wear in public, dealing with coworkers or strangers, can help prevent serious damage to personal relationships.

Understanding that we need to don that mask to minimize the damage to our loved ones comes from education and introspection. If you are mentally ill; continue to build your knowledge base about your mental illness. If you are a loved one; encourage your loved one to research and continue to build their knowledge so they can develop this understanding.

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Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below or feel free to send me an email dennis@bipolarmanifesto.com at your convenience. I read everything sent to me and will respond to you as soon as possible. I have a number of original articles posted on the main website at www.bipolarmanifesto.com .

If you find this information helpful or think it will benefit someone you know; pass it on! My body of work is to benefit others. Liking/Sharing/Printing off to show someone all accomplish a similar goal of getting it in front of more people. Thank you for taking the time to read my work!

I offer a simple phone consultation service for people that would like to pick my brain in a more focused setting. Head on over to my phone consultation page for more information and an important disclaimer if you are interested.

-Dennis

Posted in General, Hypomania | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

A New Bipolar Tattoo

masks
So this evening I finally got the complimentary wrist tattoo to my first. If you did not catch my long time ago blog post; I have a tattoo up my left wrist to make it look half slit; with a cord stitch to represent each of my suicide attempts. I’ve struggled with mild to suicidal Bipolar-Depression a majority of my teenage through adult life.

It is my “Suicide Card”. I felt it was the best option for reminding myself, years down the road if I slipped back into that darkness; where I have spent so much time already and what I’ve already been through. I figured it would be a clear and stark reminder of having beat it before. And it is on my left wrist because I am right handed and will probably always have access to knives.

The piece I got tonight, on my right wrist, is a stark display of my path the last few years. The drama masks, nothing new. Bipolar symbolism that many of us do identify with regularly. The Maltese cross is a variation on the solid green cross of the Order of St. Lazarus; the Leper Knights. Early in the Crusades, the Leper Knights were started in a hospital outside of Jerusalem. Their primary purposes were to defend Christianity and to serve the poor and sick as Lords until they were too sick to do so. As the Crusades wore on, members of other Orders that contracted leprosy were shifted off to the Leper Knights. Though a majority of their time was spent as Hospitallers, they would occasionally pick up arms to fight, including losing thousands in the defense of Jerusalem.

Well, I have little interest in defending Christianity as a rather apathetic agnostic. I do heavily identify with the other half of that purpose – to turn my illness into a positive by offering assistance and comfort to others.

The Maltese cross was put into two tones to represent the duality of the Disorder rather than the single green of the Leper Knights. Having a piece of history (something I’m passionate about) that aligns with my life goals of helping the mentally ill inked on is a solidification of a commitment I made myself years ago when I was teetering on suicidal depression; that if I couldn’t live for myself then I would for others.

That commitment has kept me here through some very dark places.

I know a lot of people want to hide away the Disorder and their problems. I did that for years and all I got was misery and self-loathing out of it. It wasn’t until I threw open the doors that I was able to find some peace of mind and happiness with myself. It wasn’t until I stopped trying to pretend I was normal that I was able to offer some genuine smiles.

It’s not always easy. Sometimes its frustrating, painful, and infuriating. But I’m glad I found this path. As much as it has sucked, Bipolar Disorder has ultimately made me a better person.

This tattoo is a very permanent confirmation of what I figured out in the past five years. My path is one best walked openly. I will be Bipolar until the day I die. And I will do my best to continue to use it positively and openly to show the people that suffer in silence like I did that they are not alone. That’s the path I want to walk until I am too sick or dead- like the Leper Knights of old.

And thank you to c, the one who made it possible.

Posted in General | 2 Comments

Mood Disorders and Emotions: WTF Is My Loved One Thinking!?

Many of the emails and messages I receive are from loved ones trying to figure out WTF their loved one is thinking or actually feeling. Today, I’m going to share with you the process I use to try and decipher these thoughts and feelings so perhaps you can apply it in your life. Before I dive into this, I would like to remind you that there are no absolutes when it comes to mental illness and the human mind. These are just the things I’ve come to understand through my own studies and observations in dealing with people and myself. Your mileage (or kilometerage) will vary.

So let’s get into this…

1. Identify the potential trigger or stressor.
The first step I take is to identify the potential trigger point for that person that launched their instability. This is normally something that will stand out starkly- a loved one’s death, moving, losing a job, heated arguments, major frustration. The point of ignition will often be something that would be stressful to a normal person. A mood disorder will take a stress like that and rocket them into unwellness.

I’m not going further into triggers in this post because I’ve already written about them in-depth. You can find more information on mood disorder triggers from my point of view via the link.

2. Identify what they thought and felt about the subject BEFORE the triggering event.
My next step is to ascertain how the person felt and thought about a particular subject before the triggering event; even if it is just the day before their unwell cycle started. That is the truest measure of their emotional state and thoughts on the subject, assuming they don’t have other factors relating to mental illness in play. I aim to get a large segment of information from the person I’m talking to so I can see their overall perspective.

I feel like many couples and loved ones are at a disadvantage in this. I have met so many “happy” and “unhappy” couples who have secrets hidden away from one another. Their genuine thoughts and feelings aren’t explored with their loved one and it puts them at an automatic disadvantage because they do not have the entire truth of the matter.

3. Throw out everything that’s happened from that triggering event to present.
That triggering event unleashed a flood of warped thoughts, negative emotions, and you know.. mental illness. You can’t put absolute faith in anything that person thought or felt since the start of their unwell cycle. Now, there are plenty of people who retain lucidity and somewhat accurate thought. It depends on the person, the severity of the illness, the severity of their cycle, their real life stresses; and probably a hundred other things.

What you are looking to eliminate is extremely unusual or uncharacteristic behavior from the equation. Let me give you an example we will work with. (And this is not based on anyone, this is just one of the things I see on a regular basis. If it seems familiar to you, it’s because it happens to a lot of people.)

James is a Bipolar, devoted family man. The couple has been married 8 years, with typical relationship bumps, but nothing too drastic has occurred between the two. Then James is laid off from career. Now he has the anger and sadness of losing his career, the anxiety of how he’s going to help support his family, and the realization that he is essentially back to square one in his life.

James’s mind escalates as he lays awake at night, staring at the ceiling, trying to figure out how he’s going to pay bills and the rent. The lack of sleep fuels the mania and his mental shift gets worse. He picks fights for any reason over anything, is behaving erratically, and sometimes frighteningly.

Then he gets a call from an ex-gf from years passed that things were unresolved with. He looks at his wife, his life, and his current misery and decides that he is entirely unhappy with it; not realizing that his unhappiness is blown out of portion by the mania. James’s decision making is entirely impaired, fueled by the erratic nature of manic thinking, overwhelming emotions, and general instability.

His unwell mind jumps to the conclusion that losing his career and hearing back from this ex must have been a sign. James feels good when he’s talking to the ex because he’s not being constantly reminded of his job loss and the anxiety surrounding it. In looking at his wife, he sees her concern and worry; not only over their living situation, but in the erratic way that he’s been behaving. She starts to pull away because she doesn’t know what to make of the situation or understand how to help her husband.

Just the sight of his wife becomes a visual trigger; a reminder of his failures as a husband, in his career, to his children. Being around her makes him worse, but he’s around her all the time because he’s now unemployed.

James interprets this as a sign of the relationship breakdown, he decides that he must not love her anymore since his “feelings” for his ex are still so strong; again, not realizing that those feelings are just a figment of his unwell cycle. He feels guilty, and throws himself into lavishing attention and love on her in the hopes of revitalizing whatever spark got them started in the first place.

A few days later, he wakes up and realizes that it’s all for naught. He “loves” his ex-gf and leaves his wife, stating that she brings him nothing but misery and anguish. James doesn’t understand that he needs to be the one to manage how he feels about what he’s seeing in his wife. She’s scared, concerned, withdrawn; instead of exploring why, he jumps to the conclusion that she must be getting ready to leave him first. So fuck that bitch. James leaves his family and moves in with the ex.

This goes on for awhile. James comes in and out of his family’s life as he tries to spend time with his kids. His kids are pulling away and withdrawing because they have no idea what the fuck is going on in their father’s head. So they’re scared and concerned as well. James decides that his wife MUST be turning them against him, further fueling the mania and spinning him out further. His hatred for his wife grows. He screams at her, calls her cunt, maybe even harasses her at her work place to try and hurt her the same way she’s been hurting him. And attacking him through the kids? That’s just fucking unacceptable.

This transpires over the course of months. Almost a year later, James may have finally been hospitalized or maybe his brain just couldn’t keep up with the mania anymore. His unwell brain crashes hard.

So how does James actually feel? James spent 8 years building a life with his wife with mutual love and respect. The trigger, the ignition point, was when the severe unwell thinking started. The unwell thinking is twisted reality and flat out lies that your brain tells you is absolutely true. And if you trust your brain, you’ll follow through on it. Bipolars that don’t understand their mental illness or are undiagnosed do not have the perspective they need to KNOW that they CAN NOT trust their brain after they trigger.

James looks around this ex-gf’s place that he’s now shacked up with; and it all hits him like a tidal wave. His emotions drop back to a similar state as they were before the unwell cycle. In love with his wife, happy with his kids; even though things weren’t always perfect. But now, James is in the darkest part of the Disorder. The part where I suspect most of us end up losing their battle.

What goes up, must come down. And when you’re that high up, you come down HARD into a deep, black, murky abyss of depression where there is no light, no hope, no love. Nothingness. Just the void. And in that weak moment when James is looking back on what he destroyed? He can’t live with what he did to his wife, kids, and to himself. So he picks up a steak knife and slits his wrist.

Maybe James is lucky and gets found before he is too far gone to save. Maybe he’s successful. Or maybe he makes it through the dark spot without the suicide attempt. Perhaps he tries to go back to his wife, apologizing profusely with no idea how to explain what was going through his head or why. But all she can do is cry because she has no idea who the man is she is now looking at. Is it the monster or is it the loving husband?

Can she trust him? What’s he thinking? What’s he feeling? Who is he, even? Will this happen again? What can she do about it? What can he do about it? Can the relationship be recovered? Is the trust completely destroyed? Is the marriage gone?

So many questions, so many stresses; so much potential for another unwell cycle.

Author’s Note: So much for a short post, that James story really started pouring out of my subconscious. Like he was sitting in the back of my brain, telling it to me. Anyway…

4. So what is my Bipolar loved one actually thinking when they’re unwell?
The short answer is that it doesn’t matter. You cannot trust your unwell loved one’s thoughts while they are unwell. Period. At all. That doesn’t mean to accuse them of lying or think they are always trying to manipulate you; but if things don’t add up logically in your mind or appear extremely erratic, chances are pretty good that they are the product of unwell thought processes.

Does that make the actions the person takes while unwell acceptable? No. It doesn’t. No one should just put up with an abusive environment. Unwell people can do awful things that are completely out of character for them across the spectrum of abuse.

As a third party, your being able to identify those thought processes can be extremely helpful to a Bipolar person who understands the way the Disorder affects their thinking. And most importantly for the third party, it can let them know when not to take the Bipolar person’s words and actions to heart.

James’s wife would be perfectly justified in leaving him for his actions; for hating him for what he did to their family. And that’s the way it goes for quite a number of people because normals just can’t wrap their heads around how a person can completely turn around on their emotions, thoughts, and beliefs like that. That’s because it’s not normal; it is a product of mental illness.

Is it right? Is it wrong? It doesn’t matter. It’s mental illness. It is what it is.

5. How can I use this information?
One of the most spoken pieces of advice I give to loved ones of mentally ill people is to learn to control your emotions. It is an essential skill to not only keeping your stress levels low, but in being able to keep a clear enough head to try and navigate your way through the other person’s unwell thoughts to try and anchor them back to the ground. It also helps a shitload in every day life to deal with difficult customers, clients, or coworkers.

If you’re calm and collected, not wondering “what the fuck?”; you can calmly point out that… “Hey, you remember you’re Bipolar right? So maybe it’s an unwell thought process want to sell your car to fund a vacation to England while you’re unemployed?”

A supporter shouldn’t be surprised if the person waffles back and forth between “I love you, let’s get married” and “I hate you, I can’t ever speak to you again” in the span of a week. That is stereotypical Bipolar emotions and thoughts.

How does that person really feel? Well, you look back before the triggering point. That is likely the closest point to their genuine thoughts and feelings you’re going to get. While they are in the midst of their unwell cycle, you should be nudging them to seek professional help or keep up on their meds if they decided they didn’t need them. (Which again, happens all the time.)

Do not get caught up in what their emotions are at this moment. Think big picture. These kinds of erratic fluctuations are just par for the course for an unwell mind.

6. But what if I can’t find a triggering point?
In my experience, a majority of triggering points are fairly blatant. That doesn’t mean they all are. A great example of this is your sense of smell. Smell can kick up powerful changes in the body. Consider the way fresh popcorn makes you hungry or perhaps catching a whiff of a scent that is associated with something specific in your history that floods back memories. See where this is going?

My second ex-Fiancee loved lavender. Lavender body wash, shampoo and conditioner; lavender everywhere. After we parted ways, if I’d catch a whiff of lavender, all of those memories would just come flooding back and slam me like a tidal wave; trying to throw me into a deeper depression. Bipolar Disorder just latched onto that and tried to go running with it. And it sucked worst of all because it was typically in a public place, like a store. So now, I’m standing in the middle of a grocery store fighting back this depressive wave, using activate management mental skills while moving hastily away from where I caught a whiff; or simply leaving my cart and walking out.

And like so many people, I coped with rum. Lots and lots of rum.

The Bipolar person may not have any idea why they triggered. Maybe it was catching a glimpse of someone who looked like their mother who passed away a few months ago, maybe it was the scent of cologne their sexual abuser wore, maybe it was something as innocent as lavender. ANYTHING that has a deep emotional tie can potentially kick off an unwell cycle.

Should that happen, you just have to look back to a point when they were functioning normally for them to try and find their baseline.

7. How do I use this knowledge to my benefit?
- Mentally Ill – You HAVE to learn how your mental illness affects YOU. That means learning everything you possibly can about it and figuring out what applies to you. No one can do that but you; not doctors, therapists, loved ones, kids, parents, whatever. YOU have to do it for YOU; because you’re the only one that knows your innermost vulnerabilities. And you can do it. If I could do it through years of serious to suicidal depression; you can do it too.

You need someone you can trust to bounce things off of for a clear perspective. If you don’t have anyone around you that you can trust like that, look into a support group. And yes, I know, “I don’t like talking about my problems”. Yeah, I’ve heard it a thousand times. Would you like to deal with a few minutes of social discomfort (not anxiety, keep reading) or would you like to deal with sweeping up the ashes of a six month long manic bender? I fully believe that peer support groups are one of the best ways to have balance and not feel like you’re burdening the people that care about you. You’re dealing with other people just like you; and you’re providing your insight, experience, and help in a meaningful way to those people too.

For those of you with social anxiety (yeah I didn’t forget about you), look for a decent community forum. The best one I’ve found is the one at www.dbsalliance.org . You can anonymously post your thoughts and get feedback from multiple people. Or, you can always email me.

Always remember- just because your brain is screaming at you that this is the best idea you’ve ever had; it doesn’t mean that it is or that you have to follow through with it.

- Supporters – You have to learn to not dwell in the moment. Yes, your unwell loved one is going to say and do some shitty things probably. That’s why it’s a mental illness and not mental super happy fun time. If you can retain your perspective and keep your emotions calm, you can work to minimize the collateral damage that will occur from the unwell cycle.

Encourage the person to get in to see their medical professional or seek help in the first place, if they have not.

You can also utilize an active management technique of distraction. The more the Bipolar person dwells on unwell thoughts, the more fuel they are throwing into the fires. Work to keep them distracted off of those thought processes so they don’t have a chance to really take hold and launch. That can be as simple as “hey let’s go to lunch” or throw in a funny movie to take their mind off of whatever they are dwelling on.

The important thing is- do not get wrapped up in the here and now. They will probably have fifty different opinions by the time the cycle actually ends.

*******************
Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below or feel free to send me an email dennis@bipolarmanifesto.com at your convenience. I read everything sent to me and will respond to you as soon as possible. I have a number of original articles posted on the main website at www.bipolarmanifesto.com .

If you find this information helpful or think it will benefit someone you know; pass it on! My body of work is to benefit others. Liking/Sharing/Printing off to show someone all accomplish a similar goal of getting it in front of more people. Thank you for taking the time to read my work!

I offer a simple phone consultation service for people that would like to pick my brain in a more focused setting. Head on over to my phone consultation page for more information and an important disclaimer if you are interested.

-Dennis

Posted in Coping, General | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

On Bipolar-Depression And Life Decisions…

Different people experience Bipolar Disorder in different ways. In my case, I’m a Type 2 Bipolar who spends a majority of his time in relatively functional depression. That has been my baseline since I was a teenager with regular dips into non-functionality.

So a few days ago, November 17th, I turned 35. About a month before that I found a document that was a 2013 report on the career I wanted to pursue for my state. I knew that the role I wanted to pursue was new and uncommon; but I did not think it was “only 150 people doing it in the entire state” new and uncommon. That kind of low existence isn’t really a career choice; it’s more like a craps shoot.

In years past, this would have been a trigger into morbid or suicidal depression. Today, I know how to handle that thanks to what I learned in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. There’s a window between the time the Bipolar person triggers and the destination they will wind up at. I know that I need to minimize the impact of my thoughts in that trigger window. I do that by forcing myself to not think or dwell about the circumstance unless I absolutely have to. In this case, realizing that it would be completely retarded for me to sink the time and effort into developing a career that only 150 people perform was the trigger.

Every time it would pop into my mind, I would force my mind somewhere else. I would distract myself with music I could really get into, talking or immersing myself in the struggles of other people, or video games. It took a few days, but eventually my mind felt like it reached the plane it was supposed to be at. The chaotic fluctuations were more muted and the waters seemed to have calmed. After that point, I was able to think about it with a clearer mind.

It still kicked me towards the depressive side; but no suicidal or self-destructive thoughts. I didn’t fall as far as I would have had I just jumped on those emotions of experiencing a set-back. This is an invaluable skill to develop if you’re Bipolar or Depressive. Do not just jump on your emotions when you hit an emotional experience. Does it always work out so neat and clean? No. It doesn’t. I fuck it up from time to time or it’s something I can’t put off; that I absolutely have to take care of. But when I am successful it makes things so much easier.

That initial slam of the trigger is the hardest part to work with. I’ve still had to deal with the periodic waves from needing to think about it and dealing with this monkey-wrench in my plans. I shout it down in my mind with the mantra I embraced when I was diagnosed; “swim or die”. Is it the end of my world? No. It’s not. Things rarely go as you plan them in life. I just have to keep swimming and find another way to accomplish my long-term goals.

My birthday was bittersweet and is often time for reflection. A year ago November 17th, my grandmother passed away. I grew up living across the street from her for most of my early life and when I was living with my folks as an adult. I love her dearly but I just don’t feel the loss like I know my family did. I attribute that to the logic from my autism overriding my emotions. She was obviously an older woman, 89 if I remember correctly, who had been experiencing kidney problems. It wasn’t surprising to me that a chain of events stemming from that could end with her passing.

I think that this understanding is why her death didn’t trigger me. I understood far ahead of time that old people + kidney problems = bad. I didn’t spend time wondering why or grieving the fact that she was gone because my brain knew that old people + kidney problems = bad.

I do think that it might have had a much more negative impact on me had it happened out of the blue; like a heart attack or aneurysm. That probably would have kicked me into a shitty depressive cycle because I had no time to get acclimated.

But, the discovery that my career of choice was actually 150 instead of maybe a couple thousand? That came out of nowhere and tried to slam me pretty hard.

People who deal with depression will be able to relate to this sentiment. For most of my life I couldn’t picture having a future because my present was mired in depression. When you’re severely depressed, everything just sort of blends together and becomes irrelevant. Why should I take care of myself? I don’t matter. Why should I plan for a future? I probably won’t be there anyways.

I spent about 20 years; from about 13 to 33, wrestling with these thoughts. My dad constantly jokes that he never thought he would make it to old age because of the life he led. I would often make the same type of joke, “I won’t make it to old age”; but I left off the rest of my thought. That thought being “I won’t make it to old age because I’m pretty sure I’ll end up killing myself long before then”.

But now, now I have a different reality. I found purpose and a deep sense of self-fulfillment in helping other people. That was not a thought that ever crossed my mind when I thought I was just a broken piece of shit. Sure, I would try to be there for a friend or something if they needed it. As for strangers? My depressive thoughts for the longest time were “you don’t give two shits if I’m alive or dead so fuck you too”; even if completely unfounded.

So I’m 35, turned an important corner a couple years ago in coming to terms with myself and what I have to offer the world. I’m 35, trying to figure out what I’m doing with the rest of my life to be self-sufficient, to help people, to not lose my own war with Bipolar Disorder. And I am now back to square one on how to accomplish that.

I wish I could install a window in the side of my head for y’all to peek through at the debate that rages.

Depressed side: “You knew it wouldn’t work out. You fuck up everything you set out to. Idiot.”
Rational side: “Fuck that guy. Shit isn’t going as you planned, it never does. Find a new path.”
Depressed side: “Yeah find a new path that will just blow up in your face and fuck you over.”
Rational side: “Shut the fuck up. Victory goes to the tenacious; the people that overcome set-backs. So don’t listen to that bitch and figure something out.”

That’s pretty much how I debate things in my head with myself.

Inspirational as fuck, eh?

So I’ve spent the past few weeks, silently battling in my head and trying to figure out what the hell I’m doing. I have really boiled it down to two options.

A. Work a typical job and continue to do what I do through my website as my means of helping people. There are problems with this approach. That is going to require a heavy investment in time and energy in the week. Being Bipolar, I do need to attempt to keep my stress levels somewhat in check and have time to decompress so it doesn’t shove me into a hypomanic cycle. And if you’ve been lucky enough to not have to work too many low-tier jobs in your life; they don’t tend to honor or respect your time very often unless you have an actual decent superior. You’re a low wage monkey and can be replaced by any other low wage monkey. So that isn’t likely to work out in the long-term. Yes, there are good people that would work with me out there. There are also assholes that would smile to my face and start looking for any reason they could to get rid of me so my problems didn’t impact their ability to conduct business.

B. Go back to college. I could complete an Associates in Human Services Tech at the local college (or university for you folks not in America). The government should pay for it (or a majority of it) as part of vocational rehab to get me off of disability and back into the work force. Furthermore, if things went well, I could continue that education to four years; and then maybe even look at Graduate school to become a Therapist or Psych. I like the fact that I can increment it. Maybe I make it through two years but it’s hard as shit because my brain sucks and my short-term memory has the retention of a screen. I could take that two years and get a job as an aide or assistant.

Quite honestly, I would be looking further than that. I have a very unique, perfect storm of things going on with me that puts me in a position to contribute greatly. Bipolar but not too Bipolar; Autistic but not too Autistic; skilled written communicator who can articulate well; battered, bruised, damage- but not broken.

What I lack is credibility to medical professionals. A degree would be huge for that because I could say “Hey, I’ve been through all this shit; but I’ve had training like yours too. So perhaps you should at least hear me out instead of just looking at me like I’m fucking stupid?”

And then there is the matter of money. There is little to be money to be made in mental health. I’ve talked about my need to actually earn a couple times, and received a couple of messages about how “money isn’t everything” and “I shouldn’t be worried so much about that”.

Yeah, that’s all well and good; but I want to be self-sufficient and I like stuff. But even more than that; I’ve spent the last couple of years trying to figure out types of businesses that could push towards self-sustainability, provide opportunities for disabled people, the poor, and convicts trying to change their lives. That’s going to require money and I know that between my credit rating (LOLOLOLOL) and general history as a mental patient (also LOLOLOLOL); a traditional lender is going to look at me and shit themselves in laughter.

So if I want to even attempt something like that in the future; I’m going to need to have my shit straight. I’ll be in a decent position if I can make it through college with minimal debt. I’ll live below my means after that point so I can stockpile resources. If I decide to pursue a venture like that, I will probably have to appeal to independent investors for funding. And I would prefer to have at least half of the capital be my own money to demonstrate I believe in it and planned thoroughly enough to put my ass very much on the line.

College seems to be the right path but man; in addition to all the normal doubts…there’s the doubts that go along with being Bipolar. For example, I know cramming is fucking useless for me because my brain won’t retain information that way. I need to cram about a week ahead of time before the info pops out of the wasteland that is my short-term memory. And that many years? Oh I will definitely have unwell cycles and probably run into chaotic situations as a result. Sure, I have rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act; but will I be of mind to advocate for myself? To ensure that I am given the rights I am entitled to by law for being a nutcase trying to better my situation? Will I even be able to do anything about it if there is conflict?

I tried to go to college when I was younger and I succeeded at doing was racking up a $3000 internet bill from long-term, unwell decisions and blowing about $6000 in savings bonds that were gifted to me throughout my childhood.

But! There is good news in all of this.

I just turned 35 and I don’t look forward with hopelessness. Even when I am depressed, I still see a future for myself. Yeah, there are still times when I put on the headphones and zone out into a video game for several hours because I can’t think. But those times are much fewer and far between than they used to be. I had to reevaluate and change the way I looked at myself and my future. It’s something I’m still working on in a lot of ways.

The point to all of this? I no longer feel like I’m just killing time until I die. That came from a shift in a way I not only viewed myself but in the progress I’ve made fighting the Disorder with the help of doctors, medication, and therapy. That’s a change that so many others could have too if they jump into the fight, scrapping tooth and nail to win their own war.

I’ve gone from 20 years of feeling like shit about myself to knowing I will have a future. I’ve been able to close my hateful eyes and see someone with a unique combination of difficult experiences and gifts that can be used as a catalyst for others.

So if you look in the mirror and can only see yourself through depressive eyes; that doesn’t have to be your future. If I can do it, you can do it too.

*******************
Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below or feel free to send me an email dennis@bipolarmanifesto.com at your convenience. I read everything sent to me and will respond to you as soon as possible. I have a number of original articles posted on the main website at www.bipolarmanifesto.com .

If you find this information helpful or think it will benefit someone you know; pass it on! My body of work is to benefit others. Liking/Sharing/Printing off to show someone all accomplish a similar goal of getting it in front of more people. Thank you for taking the time to read my work!

I offer a simple phone consultation service for people that would like to pick my brain in a more focused setting. Head on over to my phone consultation page for more information and an important disclaimer if you are interested.

-Dennis

Posted in Depression, Self-Help | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

The Anatomy Of My Depressive Crash

A depressive trigger was recently tripped in my brain and started off a depressive cycle. I felt my brain down shift about a week ago after a conversation with a good friend. I feel like this is a good opportunity to illustrate the shift, how I view it, what I do about it, and how I attempt to minimize the damage. In a majority of my writing, I aim to provide reasonable hope and the more positive point of view that medication and self-management has helped a lot (which it has). This post was written in a depressive state of mind so you can get a glimpse of that other me.

As for the inevitable flood of worry I know I’ll get from certain readers; I’ll be fine. My depression of today is nothing compared to my depression of 20 years ago. No suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm; just the void. On a scale of about 0-10 with 0 being suicidal; I’m at about a 3-4 whereas the last several months I’ve been more at a 5-6. I attribute this to meds and self-management techniques.

So let’s dive into this cesspool.

The Depressive Trigger
The trigger? The trigger was my fault. I thought more than I talked and created a misunderstanding with my on again, off again “it’s complicated” friend. I’ve long looked at relocating to a place where I could pursue my career goals. The area I’m in doesn’t have the population or resources available really. My “it’s complicated” friend and I were making plans to share a place. In my mind, I was thinking this was a significant repairing of our last schism that had been on the mend for awhile and an inevitable next step. It also happened to coincide with several of her goals and needs as well as my desire for relocation.

After floating an alternative idea; it was realized that she was focused more on the practical sides of the arrangement. It made the most logical sense to her in that way. I drew conclusions and connected dots that weren’t present while she was fairly clear in communicating her perspective. The revelation and realization that I had got this wrong was my depressive trigger.

“But Dennis,” I hear the normals asking, “aren’t you just sad?” Fucking no. Sad is sad. Depression is a numb, empty void. Depression is nothingness. My brain dropped and shifted gears like an automobile. I was in a good mood, relatively placid; and then it felt like someone shifted from 5th gear to 3rd gear. My brain slowed down, my mood dropped into nothingness; and here I sit writing this. It’s been a week. It’ll probably be many more.

Since I know my friend will be reading this; I know you felt like an asshole and terrible about it. It’s not your fault. It’s not anyone’s fault. It’s just the nature of dealing with a Bipolar person.

(Addition) After reading the initial drafts of this approach, my friend pointed out that I told her that I had informed her that I had hit a trigger in the conversation; which I didn’t remember. (Thanks for nothing, brain!) Anyway, I told her that I had hit a depressive trigger and that if I seemed to withdraw and become distant in the coming days, that’s why. She pointed out that this was helpful to her so she would know what was coming and not worry over the change in my mood, withdrawing, and increased introversion. Given that she has her own mental struggles as well; my telling her reduced her own anxiety and wondering about what was going on in my head. Hopefully, this is a solid demonstration of the benefit of open communication between partners/friends/family/whatever.

The Fallout
The long and complicated history I have with this woman was a significant catalyst. The connection I felt for her was immediate when we were youngin’s. I didn’t understand it, didn’t understand my mind, or the very different way my brain and emotions work as a High-Functioning Autistic. It also coincided with the emergence of Bipolar Disorder and puberty. It was not exactly a great time in my life. I engaged in some misguided behavior that could be construed as stalkery until she simply kicked me out of her life for good. That I could deal with.

As a High-Functioning Autistic, my brain tries to interpret everything in black and white. I could deal with being nothing or in mutual love. What I couldn’t deal with was an unrequited love that was so strong. I had no fucking idea how to handle that. I also didn’t know that what I was experiencing was abnormal. I never talked about my feelings because I never saw a need to and because my brain suffers in the conversion of emotions to vocalization- a common autistic trait.

That trigger took me back 20 years. It took me back to the pain, confusion, and misery. It was a stark reminder that even after all the time I’ve spent working to counter this bullshit; it can still sucker punch me out of nowhere. And over what? Dormant feelings from 20 years ago that I got over awhile ago. But unfortunately, my emotional processes are fucked.

My introversion is back in full force. Discarded my real life gaming group that I look forward to out of pure apathy. Just don’t give a fuck at the moment because I’m depressed, unsure, and aimless. Plans I saw as crystal clear shattered to pieces. Doubts I had rationalized and fought back all flooded back, particularly in regards to doing what I do with wanting to pursue a career in mental health.

It’ll probably be better for me to just get a run of the mill job and just continue to work through my website and personal writings. Maybe I’ll be able to finally finish the e-book I’ve been working on if I’m not trying to generate income by writing professionally. Is everyone else right? Should I be softer in my tone, language, and approach? What the fuck am I doing? Where am I going? What do I want to fucking accomplish? HOW do I accomplish it? Doubts, doubts everywhere. Doubts that were previously conquered and answered. Doubts that I had previously made decisions and plans on that now threatened to become unraveled because of depression.

Minimizing The Effects Of The Cycle
The moment I felt my brain downshift I knew what was happening. My brain shifting cycles feels a certain way; in the same way that slamming your fingers in a door does. You don’t slam your fingers in a door and say “FUCK, MY FOOT!” You know it’s your fingers because that’s what hurts and the event occurred to your hand.

So I didn’t question it, I just started enacting my damage control plans for a depressive cycle. There is a period of time where the brain is in transit to where its new baseline is going to be for the duration of the cycle. During this period of time, you have a little time to try and keep it from getting out of hand. To slow and interrupt the decent; I did the following…

1. Wrapped up the conversation as soon as possible so I wouldn’t have to think about it. Adamantly shoved it out of my mind. Every time my thoughts would drift back to it, I would force myself to think of something else. I handled the little bit of time she wanted to discuss things; but when I felt the time was good I would shift the conversation away.

2. I immersed myself in activities that would take up my thought processes and not allow me to think about it. For me, that’s complicated video games and studying finance, economics, and liability law for my work and other projects. All of them are complicated as shit, all of them require a strong focus to make sense. This was complicated by my thought processes slowing down as the result of the depression; but shit happens. I dealt with it and stuck with the plan.

3. I stepped back from my mental health projects for a day. Didn’t want to think about the Disorder, my problems, or the problems of anyone else for about a day to give my brain time to reach its new baseline.

4. General conversation with some of the more positive, energetic people I know to let their energy help lessen my crash. It is absolutely true that your moods will feed on and reflect from the people around you. If you surround yourself with negative or depressive people; that’s where your brain is going to go. That doesn’t mean to sit around and dump your depression around; but general conversation with people who aren’t in the same dark place can help.

5. Music. Music helps me a lot. So I’ve been listening to a lot of upbeat, heavy, or speed type music that normally boosts my mood. If you sit around listening to dreary, depressing music; it will feed your depression and make it worse. And I assure you, I listened to that dark stuff plenty when I was less understanding of what my brain does when it’s being a pile of fucking shit.

I feel like using damage control for about a day after the triggering circumstance is long enough to let my brain hit its new baseline. Your mileage may vary.

In the past, a circumstance like this would have crashed me to about 1-2 with suicidal and self-harming thoughts. Nowadays, it’s more like a 3-4 which is depressed but not too morbid. Mostly just feeling null and void for however long the bullshit lasts.

Why Didn’t You Talk To Me?!
I know I’m going to get an earful from a handful of people when this runs. I’m not writing this post for myself. I’m writing this for people to see that I do still deal with my own shit. I’m writing it so normals can hopefully get a better idea of what’s going on in their loved one’s heads. I’m writing is so my Bipolar and Depressed readers can see that there are means to lessen the impact of unwell cycles if they learn their illness and how it affects them intimately.

This? This cycle is nothing compared to the morbid dregs of depression I used to dwell in.

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Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below or feel free to send me an email dennis@bipolarmanifesto.com at your convenience. I read everything sent to me and will respond to you as soon as possible. I have a number of original articles posted on the main website at www.bipolarmanifesto.com .

If you find this information helpful or think it will benefit someone you know; pass it on! My body of work is to benefit others. Liking/Sharing/Printing off to show someone all accomplish a similar goal of getting it in front of more people. Thank you for taking the time to read my work!

I offer a simple phone consultation service for people that would like to pick my brain in a more focused setting. Head on over to my phone consultation page for more information and an important disclaimer if you are interested.

-Dennis

Posted in Coping, Depression | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Improper Use Of The Term “Bipolar Trigger”

Time and time again I see people tossing around the phrase “bipolar trigger” with disregard. Unfortunately, not understanding what a trigger is can create a number of problems in trying to figure out and manage the Disorder. It creates a misconception that causes a number of people to see their loved ones as rapid-cycling when they are not.

So what is a “trigger”? A trigger is a circumstance that kicks off an unwell cycle. It can be anything; ranging from a smell that kicks up forgotten memories, to being assaulted, to a movie. to the sky being blue. Here’s the important distinction- it kicks off an unwell cycle. It doesn’t create temporary spikes, general moodiness, or just discomfort. It is a circumstance that starts an unwell cycle.

Let’s have a look at some examples with visuals to help demonstrate this better. We’ll get to why it’s important in a minute.

Chart Legend

MOOD
10 – Full Blown “I’m The Reincarnation of Jesus” Mania
8 – Hypomania
4-6 – Normal Person Range
3 – Mild Depression
0 – Suicidal Depression

TIME
Increments shown are just for an easy visual reference. Could be hours, days, weeks, or months depending on the person.

Blue Circle denotes a trigger.

So here’s what a normal person’s moods will look like.

normal1

Notice how the person’s mood stays pretty much in the range of 4 to 6. 5 would be a fairly typical baseline for a number of people. Different people may have different baselines. Mine for years and years was about a 3. I’ve met other Bipolars who had a baseline more around the 7 mark. They were intense, volatile and constantly on the go. They were also very easy to tip into a manic cycle.

depression1

This second chart denotes a Depressive cycle. The blue circle is the “trigger”. That may have been bumping into an ex you’re still tender about, someone dying, losing your job, getting passed over for a promotion, a television commercial, the smell of a turkey dinner that reminds you of your dead mother, or again; the sky being blue. For whatever reason, your brain “triggers” and you crash straight the fuck into depression. Your baseline is now around the 1 mark, shifting slightly up and down. Depressive people don’t tend to be as chaotic as escalated people. Most of the time, your brain is lethargic and can’t think worth a shit.

manic1

This third chart shows a typical manic cycle, crash, and the start of rebalancing. The blue circle on this chart denotes the manic trigger. Notice how the person’s mood rockets upwards? There’s nothing slow or subtle about it. The person’s baseline shifts to about an 8 and starts bouncing around up in that area. Eventually, the cycle runs it’s course, and the person’s brain drops off into the abyss. Over the next little bit, the person’s brain will raise up out back to their “normal” baseline. But note how the person drops to a 0? This is common. It’s not difficult to associate suicides with this severe drop off. The person just got off a run of fucking up and destroying their life around the 8, then they fall to 0, an area that would normally make them more vulnerable to self-harm and suicide; and then it’s no difficult step to kill yourself when you weigh everything you fucked up in this cycle and throughout your life.

Why Is This Important?
Now, I’m going to take a stab at what you’re wondering.

“Dennis, is this more detail specific bullshit that only you give a shit about?”

No. And here’s why. When I was in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, my therapist explained an unwell cycle being like a train leaving a station. You can stop it much easier as it is leaving the station as opposed to when it gets going full bore. A person that can identify their trigger and the escalation/fall in Time 3-5 can take measures to derail their unwell cycle. A Bipolar person can significantly minimize the effects of an unwell cycle or possibly avert all the bullshit that falls from about Time 5 on out.

Once you get to Time 5, you start seeing the spikes up and down. I regularly see people refer to these as “triggers”. They aren’t. Talking to your significant other and them getting pissed off at you isn’t a trigger. A good day, a suicidal day aren’t triggers.

Those things are all just a normal part of being Bipolar.

The trigger is what occurred at the Blue Circle. That’s it. Everything else is just the fallout from the cycle the person is in.

I beat the drum loudly that mental illness is AN ILLNESS. It behaves in certain predictable ways. You won’t always pick up on them but with the help of a significant other or loved one, they can point out when you’re starting to get more severe or your mood drastically changes. Unfortunately, the window of opportunity is small. Self-management is the best way to head off unwell cycles. It requires practice, practice, and more practice. I highly recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to learn techniques to do so.

How Do I Use This Information?
Unwell cycles get worse the more you dwell on the triggering circumstance.

The best thing to do is shove it straight out of your mind and take some actions that run counter to the potential cycle coming.

*If Depression is looming- put on some upbeat music and exercise, watch a comedy, read a book, do some hobby stuff that will take your focus off the negative thoughts.

*If Mania is looming- slow your mind down, listen to some peaceful music, remove yourself from stress, take a nap, anything that will help you relax and shift your thoughts away from the trigger.

Nowadays, I can usually catch about 90% of my shifts. They’ve gotten more subtle since I started on meds, which is both good and bad. Good in that they’re more subtle, bad in that they’re easier to miss, though the cycles are also milder. Triggers can come out of anywhere.

For example, some of mine-

“The Simpsons” movie is a severe depressive trigger. I got this movie to watch with my ex-Fiancee after she got home from work. Before the movie she said she had something important to talk to me about. After it was her “I need to leave you” conversation. So my brain associates the movie with that emotional pain.

Fight or Flight response. I’ve had several hypomanic cycles start because apparently the Fight or Flight response has a similar physiological affect on the body as a hypomanic cycle. It essentially tricks the Bipolar mind into thinking it is already in a cycle.

Using this knowledge is simple once I have it. One, I just avoid the Simpsons movie unless I’m testing my antidepressant. If someone else is watching it, I’ll just go somewhere else and focus on something else, force the thoughts and feelings of that conversation out of mind. By not dwelling, I interrupt the Depressive crashing.

It’d be great if we could all avoid Fight or Flight, but unfortunately that’s not feasible. Knowing that it will start a hypomanic cycle for me, I plan accordingly for it. After the circumstance, I will pay closer attention to my thoughts, double check any “great” ideas with people that I trust that know me well, and not make any frivolous purchases.

I know and am prepared for these circumstances because I know many of my triggers and how to identify the symptoms that indicate my brain is going to shit. You can learn those things too.

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Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below or feel free to send me an email at dennis@bipolarmanifesto.com . I read everything sent to me and will respond to you as soon as possible. I have a number of original articles posted on the main website at www.bipolarmanifesto.com . If you find this information helpful or think it will benefit someone you know; pass it on! My body of work is to benefit others. Liking/Sharing/Printing off to show someone all accomplish a similar goal of getting it in front of more people. Thank you for taking the time to read my work!

-Dennis

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Of Robin Williams, Depression, And Suicide…

Robin WilliamsWell, it’s been about two weeks now since Robin decided to end his life. I talked to quite a few other Bipolar and Depressive people who hit a similar low on hearing about that. It was kind of weird because I didn’t feel any particular attachment to the guy in general. I thought he was funny and generally liked him in his stand up and movies; but didn’t even take any great strides to see anything he was in. I definitely could see and identify with his approach to dealing with depression; make other people laugh and focus on something else so you don’t have to think about it for awhile.

Reading the news was an instant depressive trigger. I felt my brain try to rocket into the pit but the antidepressants must be working to an extent. As I stated in my short update post, it was like someone took a tennis ball, hauled back and threw it as hard as they could downwards. It tried to drop out and just bounced off the floor, then dribbled a bit as it settled at a lower level than what I had been at. For the first couple of days, my brain just would not function correctly. In a depressive crash, the person’s brain may suffer slow down and lag; like being on a shitty internet connection. That’s where my brain was. Normally, I do a fair amount of writing about finance and law for clients; but at that point I was having a hard time just adding double digit numbers in my head.

I expressed this to my mother who asked if I was just feeling sympathy or sorrow. Being that my brain was being a sluggish piece of shit, I couldn’t articulate that a Bipolar crash or spike has its own feel. Mental illness is illness; symptoms and hints are there at what you’re experiencing or may experience. I know it was a depressive crash because a depressive crash only feels like a depressive crash. (Depressive crash.) It would be like slamming my fingers in a car door and someone asking, “Are you sure you didn’t stub your toe?” Yes, I am quite sure I didn’t stub my toe. Not only did I just slam my fingers in the door (a trigger, e.g. Robin’s suicide) but I have symptoms relating to that incident (symptoms; brain rapidly falls out which lasts for days, brain slows down and loses critical thinking capabilities, the void of depression sets in).

I have a bitch of a time articulating myself verbally during these times partly because my brain slows to a crawl and partly because, as a high-functioning autistic, I have a hard time converting my emotions and feelings verbally. But yeah- thanks for the Devil’s Advocacy either way! (Seriously, that sounds sarcastic but it’s not.)

There has been a ton of speculation about the reasons behind Robin’s suicide from mainstream media, mentally ill people, and mental health groups. As someone that is going on about a two decade war with Bipolar-Depression; I’ve seen several parallels between his struggles, actions, and how I view my own future 30 or 40 years down the road.

Was Robin Williams Bipolar?
So let’s address the elephant in the room. Was Robin Williams Bipolar (or Manic-Depressive)? Those of you that saw my initial post about the news, I mentioned that “another Bipolar kills themselves”. The memory I was drawing from was from when the comedian Jonathan Winters died. Winters was diagnosed Manic-Depressive (Type 1) and was a huge inspiration to Williams. I had thought I remembered Williams stating that he was such a big inspiration, not only for his comedy, but due to his own struggles with manic-depression. I now believe this to have been a confused memory on my behalf. I dug for the article but I simply couldn’t find it. So chances are pretty good my brain was just being a piece of shit, as it is wont to do.

Williams publicly stated on numerous occasions that he struggled with severe depression for most of his life. Bipolar bloggers point at his animated comedy and screen persona as evidence of mania. Initially, that was the thought I had as well until I recently went back and watched his stand up again.

The thing is, Williams always tried to have a personal life for him and his family away from the spotlight. What these folks are basing their assertions on is his public face. None of us act the same at work as we do in private. If we did, we’d be fired in no time for refusing to wear pants to work.

On going back and watching more of his work, I came to realize that no, it was not evidence of mania. Sure; he’s animated, fast, and outgoing. Williams struggled with cocaine addiction for a long time. Assuming he was (mostly) clean later in life, I think it’s extremely possible that he used to get high before hitting the stage as a young man and just hit his stride in the frenetic activity of a coke high while delivering. That frenetic energy became his stage persona even after he (mostly) quit drugs. In other words, the actor acted.

In watching his stand up, I can tell you exactly why it’s not a manic tirade. It’s too coherent. He flows smoothly through his set, the times he “forgets” things are convenient for his performance, like the “what the hell was I going to say moment” he has during his joke about marijuana. That, of course, got major laughs from the people who have smoked pot from the audience because we’ve all been there.

I vaguely remember getting high once when I was younger, opening my eyes and looking down to find a burrito in my hand. I don’t know where I got a burrito. We didn’t have anything in the apartment to make burritos. I must have walked down to the corner stand and bought one but hell if I could remember it. I do remember it being the best burrito I ever ate; which is normal stuff when you’re baked. Everything is ambrosia.

Therein is the problem with that assertion. All we have seen of this side of Williams is his stage persona. And his stage persona, while animated and outgoing, is too coherent and measured to be a manic tirade. Disjointed thoughts are a huge problem for manic people. They just don’t connect in a logical way and your brain is in overdrive; so you can start at Point A and end up at Destination Zebra Cthulhu “Wheres The Beef?”.

Bipolar? I don’t believe so based on the information I have available.

My Speculation
I mentioned parallels that I could see me reaching later in life. Robin’s wife announced shortly after the suicide that he was in the early stages of Parkinson’s. Now, I have a reader and a good friend who has Parkinson’s. It’s been a huge transition for her because she had to adjust from caretaker/giver to actually needing help from people. I’ve listened to her talk about her own feelings about it and what she saw in others when she was going to a support group for people with it. Really, it just went to further reinforce beliefs I’ve already held.

I’m not anxious to die, but I have no fear of death either. I have seven suicide attempts under my belt and due to the past 20 years or so of thinking about, envisioning, and dealing with those thoughts; I’ve just become numb to it.

What am I afraid of?

I’m afraid that there will come a point I can no longer critically think. I’m afraid that I will wind up with a degenerative disease, be a burden on the people that love me more than I already have been, and will lose myself in the process. Robin’s suicide came as a shock, but the announcement that he was dealing with the early stages of Parkinson’s dispelled the shock and put everything into a crystal clear focus in my mind.

If I’m a 63 year old severely mentally ill man still struggling with drug addiction who is now faced with a massively degenerative disease; my choice would be suicide too.

But I don’t think this was a long, calculated plan from Robin. No, I think these thoughts had been bouncing around in his head for awhile and manifested at a moment of severe weakness. I base that speculation on the method of death- superficial wrist cuts with a pocket knife and hanging himself with a belt. It seems more likely to me that if he had made the choice in a stable state of mind, he probably would have had a bit better preparation; such as buying a length of rope. The public evidence suggests a heat of the moment decision to me.

I think the reason this hit me so hard was because I looked at Robin Williams and I saw myself. I don’t walk his road, but I walk a parallel road of my own with many similar sign posts.

The great tragedy in all of this is our attitude towards death in general. Would it not have been better for him to be able to talk to a counselor about his fears and prognosis with the option of assisted suicide after undergoing evaluation?

I get it. We don’t want to think about our loved ones dying or even wanting to die. Death is a source of confusion, pain, and fear for many. But it’s not like wasting away, confined to a bed for the next ten years is any kind of solution. If I wind up with dementia or Alzheimer’s; I don’t need my family dragging their asses to the home to visit me when I have no idea who the hell they are and the entire situation is just painful. Don’t keep me alive on life support while my brain is dead and I’m locked in a semi-permanent coma. Don’t leave me alone and vulnerable with people I don’t know in a place I’m not familiar with.

And sure as hell don’t tell me I don’t want to die after DECADES of dealing with thoughts of death when all that is ahead of me is degeneration of my body, plus the mental illness, plus whatever complications may arise.

Remember me as a relatively whole person, not a shell or shadow of what I used to be.

My wish for Robin is not that he should not have committed suicide if he was in a stable mind to make that decision. My wish is that he should have been able to face it with dignity so his loved ones did not have to find this tortured, kind, warm soul hanging from his own belt, wrists slit with his own pocket knife.

A bit of disclaimer: Understand that the previous is my opinion of how I would want to be treated. My father faithfully visits his mother with Alzheimer’s in a home. My mother worked to take care of her grandmother and her mother as they got older. And my Parkinson’s friend; I know it’s been an impossibly tough transition for you. I’d do what I could for the people I love and care about, but I doubt I could do it nearly as well because I require so much mental management of my own to stay out of the pit and continue to get this life of mine pointed in the right direction.

This is also not a suggestion that suicide is a solution. If you’re having suicidal or self-destructive thoughts, get help. 1-800-273-8255 (for America). Suicide is a very permanent solution to an oftentimes temporary, treatable problem.

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Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below or feel free to send me an email at dennis@bipolarmanifesto.com . I read everything sent to me and will respond to you as soon as possible. I have a number of original articles posted on the main website at www.bipolarmanifesto.com . If you find this information helpful or think it will benefit someone you know; pass it on! My body of work is to benefit others. Liking/Sharing/Printing off to show someone all accomplish a similar goal of getting it in front of more people. Thank you for taking the time to read my work!

I am also now offering Phone Consultations!

-Dennis

Posted in Depression | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments