Bipolar

This webpage contains details of my bipolar disorder plus mental health aspirations, and comments.

Awareness

Building this website is helping me untangle my bipolar brain. I’m not a skilled writer but writing helps me think. It’s therapeutic. I’m a skilled artist and a skilled website editor… I’m an aspiring writer.

I have lots of helping friends. I’m a very blessed man. I even get help from above. Unfortunately, I also deal with a few demons. 

Sometimes I’m on my own and sometimes I feel God’s Spirit helping me. 

Listening to God’s Spirit can be difficult. I have a crowded head. But I’m working toward an uncluttered head. 

I feel I’m making good progress!

I battle with demons. I fight bipolar disorder and I’m winning. Thanks to perseverance and the love I receive from God, family and friends… like my supervising nurse who shares my wife’s name.

There’s no known cure, so I will never be normal. Bipolar disorder is the modern day name for what was professionally referred to as manic-depressive disorder until 1980. Great strides occurred towards the end of the twentieth century in the successful treatment of this condition. New drugs became available that proved to help control the emotional extremes over time.

Bipolar disorder symptoms are not always readily apparent to people that surround someone with the illness. And unfortunately, not every person with bipolar responds well even to the modern medications that science has provided. Treatment is trial and error and depends a great deal on the bipolar individual to communicate honestly with their doctor to set a proper dosage of proper medication. Even then, there is no guarantee that the medications will work over a lifetime. Adjustments may be needed from time to time to keep emotions in check. Fortunately, there are now several options for doctors and patients to pursue. It is possible to lead a successful life with this condition.

My purpose in writing about my bipolar condition is to help enlighten those that know me by sharing a little of my experience. Also I want to help inspire anyone with bipolar realize that it’s possible to manage a relatively normal existence without being controlled by the extreme polarizing effects.

During a manic or depressive episode, lines blur between what’s real and unreal. Reality looses grip and delirium sets in. If you’re lucky, the delirium is not severe enough to kill, only maim. If that’s all that happens, then you might be able to write about it and possibly help someone else recognize the symptoms.

Diligently taking proper medication and a cautious lifestyle are the two main ingredients for success. Working with a doctor and their support group along with activities that do not represent episode “triggers” is fundamental.

It is important to learn from experience how to recognize the mood triggers and avoid them where possible. There are some good books that help too, such as Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder by Julie A. Fast and Dr. John Preston. If you know someone that is bipolar, I recommend giving the book a read. It’s designed to help family and friends also.

Manic Depression

what actor knows
what the actor shows
well-being… (torment)
(anguish)… contentment
melting as it grows
from stealth to prose
disclose not sanity’s gage
yet revealed on earth’s lighted stage

1978 – Pen and Ink on paper 

I was not aware and had not been diagnosed with manic-depressive disorder when I created this drawing but I did know that there was something wrong with me. This drawing was inspired by the emotional extremes I had been experiencing for a long time.

Fortunately I had learned over my years how to hide my emotional state enough to function successfully around others. I managed as long as the “triggers” weren’t too great.

I was hospitalized around 1977 after a mental breakdown but was not properly diagnosed… at the time the doctor believed I had taken LSD which was not true… all I knew was that I was not in full control of my brain. It wasn’t until 2003 after another mental breakdown that I was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder.

After my 2003 breakdown the doctors tried different medications at first but we finally settled on carbamazepine and risperidone for the mania and ultimately fluoxetine for the depression.

Early on in my treatment after a few years of feeling mentally stronger I got the idea that I no longer needed to take the medications. So with the doctor’s help my nurse and I began to reduce the dosages. I didn’t make it to completely eliminating the medications before I had a manic episode.

I’m grateful to my doctor and especially my nurse for that lesson as I am now diligent about taking my meds. I expect I will be taking medications for the rest of my life.

I’m fortunate that science was able to develop successful treatments for this complex illness. I believe my father may have been bipolar but since his episodic symptoms were of a violent nature I don’t feel that the doctors at the VA hospital understood this. I remember my mother saying something about “rage treatments”. I don’t know what all they used to treat him but I do know from my mother that they used shock therapy to calm him. He never got better for any long period of time while I was growing up so I suspect that they did not know how to properly treat him.

My father’s sister was somewhat promiscuous and attempted suicide more than once. My five years older than me half brother died of suicide at age twenty one. They both may have had manic-depressive (bypolar) disorder but I don’t know if they were ever diagnosed and treated for it. 

The lower left end of the image (an upside down caricature of a human head) represents downward depressed thinking. The upper right end of the image (an upside up caricature of a fire breathing dragon) represents the high energetic insanity of what I eventually came to know as manic thinking. The tiny dragons inside each polarized head represent the suicidal thoughts that can accompany the two extremes. 

Bipolar Mania

I moved the wind from nowhere to nowhere
cradled among heaven’s bright and beautiful
unbound in uncharted abode

Sometimes manic thinking can be quite vivid, even extremely pleasant, making perfect sense to the individual but not usually to other people. Delusions of grandeur are common in the manic state.

thoughts of glory
thoughts with story 
oh wonderful feeling
mind is reeling
with prescription pleasure
without medicinal measure  

Sometimes manic thinking becomes distant. Racing thoughts can seem to have a life of their own… at its worse, it feels like someone else is controlling the brain. This can be very painful mentally as well as physically, kind of like sitting in the pilot’s seat of a jet aircraft and trying to control it with an array of external overriding remote controlling operators fighting over what direction and how fast the plane will go and each operator has a different flight plan. This extremely unpleasant condition can be horrifying and bewildering at the same time. It’s like watching a suspenseful horror movie that doesn’t make sense or provide a break in the tension.

Suicidal thoughts are also possible during the manic phase. Racing thoughts can lead to a feeling of hopelessness… a feeling of drowning in thought discontinuity… drowning in the sense of being aware of the lack of thought control.

thoughts fly by
no blinking eye 
the soul sees
the mind leave
is this madness
where is adeptness
drowning yet alive 
as soul cries

Manic behavior is unpredictable. Creativity can be extremely enhanced or thoughts can be wildly out of control. Achieving a safe mental balance with lifestyle and proper medication is always the primary goal.

Bipolar Depression

I lost the wind from nowhere to nowhere
ordered midst the dark and distant
bound firm in toxic anguish

Depression will kill you. I see depression as an evil wandering black hole seeking to devour life. It uses all sorts of tactics like reminding you in elaborate detail… over and over… any and all mistakes you’ve made in your lifetime. It also likes to tenderize you with thoughts of unworthiness, making you believe that you do not deserve to live.

Another heart wrenching tactic is to take the joy out of the things that you love to do making you further feel inadequate unable to create and socialize.

The most heinous of all is the life threatening suicidal thoughts that can occur. Life can seem too much to bear and at its worst, death appears to be relief. At extreme states, medical support and guidance from outside is needed.

Bipolar depression stems from malfunctioning brain chemistry so there isn’t necessarily an outside stimulus or tangible reason for it. However, there are certain triggers that help feed depressed thinking. Weather, bad news, bad experience, a failure, the list is not short. Self isolation is a major symptom. Please seek help if depression worsens. I have lots of good reasons to be a happy person but sometimes I’m fighting a battle.

darkness creeps
the soul creaks
writhing wormy things bask in the dim 
I shudder, i sicken, i’m sightless
when will this end… 
this eclipse amid the day
stealthy demons lurking in the shadow…
laughing insanely in its playground 
more than a thorn in the side…
a black hole slowly devouring being
I linger coveting death…
but take heart… have patience!
relief has always been time away
hold on to the rim
you know darkness seeps… 
only ’til light casts it back to the deep…
until darkness comes again

Dealing with depression is a battle of the bad thoughts with good thoughts AND deeds. Depression is a stubborn greedy evil black hole.

PLEASE ask for help from outside when you first sense your depression is heading out of control. It is very important that seeking help from outside be part of your battle strategy when the black hole gets too near.

Some excellent advice on dealing with depression from my good friend Sean of the South… Dear Sean

Bipolar Stable

I ride the wind from nowhere to somewhere
residing in God sheltered creation
reflecting science in earthly appreciation

Taking Charge

Currently, there’s not a cure for bipolar disorder. But thankfully, science has developed several drugs that can help the brain operate without the extreme manic and depressed conditions.

Having a caring and stable home life is a great benefit. Managing bipolar is difficult at times but it is more so without people around you that want to help. I’m blessed with a wonderful caring family. Not everyone with bipolar disorder is as fortunate.

Functionally Dysfunctional 

When you’re bipolar, you can also become depressed for no apparent reason.

You could also be happy-go-lucky one minute and ready to end it all the next. Which is called “rapid cycling”.

Or you could be manic. Literally deliriously overjoyed with yourself one minute and completely out of touch with sanity the next.

Over time, with professional help, you learn to take your meds and through experience, learn how best to deal with the symptoms. Kinda like learning how to function without eyes, ears or limbs. I think some of the strongest people on the planet are those missing a critical physical or mental component. Legs and arms for example, don’t grow back so you’re left with no positive choice but to adapt.

A lifetime is nothing compared to an eternity. 

Suicide

August 13, 2022 – I’m not suicidal as I write this. I’m reflective. I’ve had plenty of thoughts about suicide, but when it gets right down to it, I’ve always chickened out. I go on. I reckon that I would rather deal with wanting to die than actually die. My own mental illness has simply not been severe enough to end my life. But it’s my hope to help you by sharing my experience.

I’ve been bipolar stable for a number of years now thanks to medication, help from others, and perseverance. I pray and hope that my writings don’t disturb or worry anyone! I would appreciate your sending me an email and letting me know if it does. The last thing I want to do is give a wrong impression! I am fine!

Suicide is the mental equivalent of a terminal physical disease. It’s not a willful act to “commit” suicide. “Commit suicide” is a misnomer because it indicates that the victim was in control. The victim is not in control. The illness is in control. Suicide is the triumph of a disease just like a death from cancer. Only suicide is invisible making it impossible to physically diagnose and track.

Victims include all the people surrounding someone who has a suicidal disease. The survivors “guilt” believes that they could have done something to prevent it or even that they contributed in some way. But suicide is the internalized victory of a deadly illness, not the result of some external comment or action.

The suicide victim is overwhelmed with terrible and excruciating mental pain with no other apparent means of relief. Suicide is not a rational act.

The other victim, the loved one, falls prey to their own mental illness in a state of depression and anxiety. This depression can last off and on for a lifetime because the grieving victim is left empty and frustrated.

Probably the best medicine for suicide is talking. The suicide victim’s loved ones need help. Of course the suicide victim needed help but mental illness at its worse cannot be easily denied. Neither can cancer. Talking is therapy. There’s comfort in sharing with others even if they just listen. Suicide is not easy to talk about because it’s so difficult to personally deal with. Losing a loved one to suicide is devastating. My older brother put a 16 gauge in his mouth and pushed the trigger leaning against a tree behind his apartment in Oklahoma. He was 21.

Mental Health

The folks at LifeStance Health provide excellent care designed for my specific needs. I’m especially grateful to my supervising nurse for her care, knowledge and understanding.

Bipolar Phases… the ever changing wind/mind

Mania
I moved the wind from nowhere to nowhere
cradled among heaven’s bright and beautiful
unbound in uncharted abode
Depression
I lost the wind from nowhere to nowhere
ordered midst the dark and distant
bound firm in toxic anguish
Stable
I ride the wind from nowhere to somewhere
residing in God sheltered creation
reflecting science in earthly appreciation

Social stigma

In my layman’s opinion, mental illness is a physical brain disorder and should not be completely separated from physical illnesses. A disordered brain will have some sort of physical failure. Either or both physically witnessed trauma (severe stress) and natural (inherited) chemical dysfunction. 

People don’t usually fully recover after breaking down mentally. The awareness of a breakdown alone can propagate mental insecurity. We realize that we broke so there’s worry that we might break again. It’s somewhat comparable to a severe bone breakage. Many times severe bone injuries can continue pain for years if not a lifetime. Thankfully, science has developed drugs that help with both physical and mental pain. Many of us depend on our medications to fully function.

Society takes a barbaric role when it comes to dealing with mental illness. Typically hiding the mentally ill behind a social curtain, further separating the mentally disordered from the social world. In reaction, the mentally ill commonly separate themselves from society due to a lack of coping skills.

Just like with certain inherent physical conditions, there are mental illness conditions which are, or can become, acceptably manageable. People with mental problems can still function successfully in the marketplace and society. Sometimes even without the aid of medication and behavioral specialists. 

But if we hide problems they don’t get fixed… they fester. Putting an isolating curtain in front of the mentally ill can be detrimental to everyone’s health.

The primary drawback from our socially hiding mental illness is that people can knowingly be mentality ill but fail to seek help because of the social stigma.

There’s also the fear of losing a career. A person who is outstanding and dependable in their job performance can suddenly become a liability if a mental disorder is revealed. Even if that person is functionally managing in a supreme manner.

There’s also the mentally ill that don’t know they are sick. I believe that if society accepted mental illness like it does for example, diabetes and high blood pressure, then people would eventually become more aware of their symptoms and seek professional help.

Social curtains

The most destructive effect of society’s hiding and shaming of mental disorders is suicide. Since the mentally disturbed are basically socially rejected, hope for help is diminished.

Typically if we discover that someone is mentally ill, we assume they’re incapable of normal behavior. While that may be true for some, it’s not true for all. You might be surprised to learn that your workmate or good friend has a mental disorder that they’ve been hiding for a long time. 

The primary benefit from socially accepting mental illness as a treatable condition, is that the mentally ill can gain open and healing support from everyone. 

I spent most of my life hiding my mental illness. For about half my life I wasn’t diagnosed but knew that something was wrong with me. I learned early on and first hand how important it is to socially hide mental illness. Our culture doesn’t tolerate the mentally ill. Currently culture is immature and mostly ignorant about mental health.

Now that I’m old and stable I don’t feel the need to hide, except that in revealing my bipolar condition, others tend to be either empathetic or else wary and uncomfortable. Mental illness unfortunately is unacceptable to mainstream society.

But exposing problems leads to solutions. And solutions lead to improvement. 

Sometimes all a person needs is to be accepted.

Mental Floss

Some coping aides that help me with mental maintenance…

God therapy… Bipolar weather? God understands. 
Writing therapy… Writing is something your heart teaches you. ~ Art is a celebration of God’s gifts. ~ Art is built-in to life. Life is a gift from God! ~ Artists finish their work. An audience completes it! ~ You can find good in yourself by looking for good in others! God is generous with His gifts.
Spiritual therapy… Scene from Pisgah Inn, Blue Ridge Parkway. God’s bridge between darkness and light painted with morning color… His Art is infinitely the most inspirational!
Family therapy… My favorite youngest daughter❤️ took this photo of our home! That’s my favorite oldest daughter❤️ at the front door!
Home is where the mind can rest and the spirit can soar!
Love therapy… My wife is mostly responsible for our beautiful yard and lovely home!❤️ She picked out this house and planted all the “Mom’s Gardens”.
Craft therapy… Playhouse I built for my daughters in Spring 1991 matching the basic style of our home. It sports a Dutch door with a heart shaped peep window. Inside I incorporated a fold away table using my early years drawing board.
Porch therapy…This is a Fall season photo… one of my favorite times to enjoy our front porch!
Wind therapy… Courtesy of a beautiful spirit machine like Yona!
Let Go therapy… This LEGO dragon specializes in the eradication of a stressful day!
Drawing therapy… not suitable for toddlers
Music therapy… is sound logic.
Cloud therapy… This God’s Art picture is from one of the Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks. I was riding alone on my motorcycle and God grabbed my attention out of the corner of my eye with this lone Little Cloud pareidolia that reminds me of Yona (my Indian Chieftain). I felt Great Love as I always do when I’m feeling exceptionally grateful. God loves us and is always letting us know! see 1 John 4:16
“Yona” (Indian Chieftain)

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