I’m like the 9 year old in your family that wants to gain your interest by banging his own little wacky doodle head with a soft plastic toy bowling pin.🤪 My grandparents made an 8mm movie reel of me doing just that. I’ve known for a very long time that my “attic” is full of toys. It was my well kept secret until my first major mental breakdown in 1977 at age 25. But I was not properly diagnosed until 2003 after my second mental breakdown.
The drawing below came out of the emotional ups and downs that I’d been experiencing for some time.
1978 – Pen and Ink on paper
Sometimes all I need is a good night’s sleep.
Mental health is not often discussed because as a society, we typically understand very little about it.
We like to call them nervous breakdowns. But they’re actually pressure relief episodes. And there’s a myriad of commonly found symptoms throughout society indicating poor mental health. Most people are unaware of their condition. Those of us who know we are mentally ill, work to make order out of disorder. Being aware of the need and asking for help is the first and most important step toward positive mental health.
Mental and physical are not separate things. Racing thoughts, depressed thinking, even euphoria… not only take a mental toll but a physical one as well.
Stress can trigger an episode. We can’t avoid stress. It’s a fact of life. It’s plowing through rocks and hard clay. Many do it unscathed. Some struggle. Some fail. We’re all uniquely different.
We should seek professional help when we’re over challenged by stress. Seeking help is critical for healing. We humans are designed to help each other.
God and His promise of a better place is what helps me the most. He gives me something else beyond this life to look forward to. We can hope, believe, and have faith that heaven fixes everything that’s broken on this side of life.
We can live our disordered life under God’s loving, healing, and watchful eye if we choose to do so.
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 is aware of their condition. And some don’t respond well to treatments, not even with 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. I’m proof that it’s possible to lead a successful life with this condition.
My purpose in writing about the bipolar condition is to help enlighten the curious. 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 can blur between what’s real and unreal. Reality looses its grip and delirium can set in. If you’re fortunate, the delirium is not severe. Suicide or suicidal thoughts and behavior, is common among bipolar individuals.
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 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.
what audience knows
what the actor shows
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 of my own manic-depressive disorder when I created this drawing but I did know that there was something wrong with me. My drawing was inspired by the emotional extremes I was experiencing.
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.
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.
I lost the wind from nowhere to nowhere
ordered midst the dark and distant
bound firm in toxic anguish
Depression can be deadly. 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 necessary.
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. Bad weather, bad news, bad experience, a failure, the list is not short. Self isolation is a major symptom. Please seek help if depression sets in.
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
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. Talk with someone and let them know you’re depressed. God designed us to help each other.
I ride the wind from nowhere to somewhere
residing in God sheltered creation
reflecting science in earthly appreciation
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 also a great benefit. Managing bipolar is difficult at times but it is more so without people around you that want to help.
Take charge and seek help.
Medication, when properly administered, helps keep the emotional extremes at bay. The trade off can be mediocre mental and physical activity, low volume creativity, and a dulling buffer zone to emotions. The goal is to optimally balance medication and “normal” activity.
Over time, with professional help, you learn to take your meds and through experience, learn how to deal with the symptoms. Kind of like learning how to function without eyes, ears or limbs.
Some of the strongest people on the planet are the ones facing life challenges that “normal” folks don’t face. We learn a life humbling lesson from the functionally challenged who overcome their obstacles and persevere.
Everything’s Going to be Okay
My brain is a bit wacky. Sometimes I tend, in the midst of a wonderfully loving family, to find deep fault in myself. I don’t deserve to be happy. I don’t deserve to be creative. I don’t deserve love. I’ve made too many mistakes… This is likely another one… Burdening strangers and web friends with woeful thoughts. But these bad thoughts have always been temporary. I’ve experienced them many times before. Maybe you have too. They always dissipate over time. But that doesn’t help those close that see me deeply, like my wife, yet love me anyway and want me to be happy. I especially want them to know that everything’s gonna be okay.
When talking with my supervising nurse I use a metaphor to describe my mental health. Depression is a deep dark forest and mania is a bright blue lake in the middle of the dark woods. Stability is along the shoreline. It can be overcast or sunny. Either one is a good day as long as I’m out of the woods and not under deep bright water. She has helped me find a chemical regiment that’s allowing me to wander the shore and for quite a while now. ❤️