Saturday, September 27, 2008

Through a Glass Darkly

That has always been a favorite of mine. Because being manic-depressive often means just that: Seeing life through a glass darkly.

It comes from the New Testament, specifically 1 Corinthians: 13. "For now we see through a glass darkly." Supposedly this actually refers to mirrors.

In the midst of a manic episode, I can oddly step outside of myself, an almost spiritual detachment, where I see the behavior and cannot stop it. This is generally when I put out the call for help and go to see Dr. B, which I did this past Wednesday. There's much to be said about the aura that precedes a manic episode. He compares it to an epileptic aura. I believe this to be true.

So, what are my manic episodes like? Not unlike driving a car with bald tires full tilt boogie down an unpaved country road, with my brain pounding like the engine's pistons. Thoughts flit here, there, around the top of my head, and then disappear, only to be replaced by more unconnected ideations. The only thing that will stop this racecar is a tree. Splat...

During a manic episode, there is much energy to be put into projects. Like a whirling dervish, I operate brilliantly (or so it seems at the time). I climb the peaks of performance, thrilling myself by peering over the dangerous precipice. If I willed it to be so, I could fly. I actually believed that as a child. As an adult, it takes on a more nuanced cloak. I fly, indeed, through my writings. You could say that my writing is my sanity keeper. As it has been for so many others.

Once I'm at the top of the peak, the paranoia sets in. People really don't like me and they're talking about me behind my back. I become frustrated, highly irritable, and with those very close to me, often verbally combative. My impulses are out of control. I get into the car at 1 a.m. and drive around aimlessly, waiting for the medication to work its magic. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. I'm hypersensitive to all things that touch me, both physically and existentially.

And then suddenly, I rappel rapidly down the slope.

Like a love-starved puppy, the inevitable depression begins to follow me, panting, a deluge of anxiety, sorrow, fear, and morbid thoughts. My world comes to a standstill. Yes, I can still work but I can no longer focus on minor details, so that work becomes the battle to stay intact. Somehow, I always manage, if barely. And hide the severity of my illness as best I can.

These are the warning signs that I've come to know and fear. As of this writing, I am on an increased medication dosaging schedule. Besides being ready to pass out from the extra Seroquel, I've had Xanax added to the cocktail. I will take it sparingly but it's there to help. And I have faith that I will once again overcome the demons that rage inside of my head.

If you are in the midst of what I call fighting the good fight, go back and read both of Kay Redfield Jamison's books--Touched with Fire and An Unquiet Mind. Jamison is my heroine and through her research and writing, she has done more to help me stay on the straight and narrow than any other writer.

Stay well, my friends. And keep fighting the good fight, side by side with me.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

More on Baby Bipolars

This past weekend, the New York Times Sunday Magazine featured an article on bipolar disorder in children. This remains a controversial issue but I'm very glad that it's getting increased publicity. Awareness leads to solutions, eventually.

Whether or not these children are in fact bipolar is moot. The fact remains that they have distinct behavioral problems, as I did as a child. I frequently had rages, temper tantrums, acted impulsively, and was then branded as a "naughty little girl." Of course, that was the '50s. When child psychiatry was virtually unknown and certainly not known to my parents.

In the meanwhile, as a rapidly aging bipolar, there has been more research on my age group, 50+. The disorder does not get better with age, that's for sure. However, staying on medication will actually improve your brain, apparently. Fine with me. Although I don't always like the fuzziness my meds cause, I've found that with a little extra effort, I can overcome it.

I'd like to hear from over-50 bipolars. Do you find that your disorder has worsened? Are your manic periods more out of control? I do see that I have to have my meds monitored far more closely than when I was younger. It would appear that their effectiveness wanes much faster than previously. That's simply my observation of my own situation. I have been going through yet another dysphoric period, so Dr. B will see me next week for a review. Fortunately, my dosages are on the low side, so we have plenty of room to play.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Dysphoria Rears Its Very Ugly Head

When I say I'm cranky, that's part and parcel of being manic depressive. It's the double-edged sword. Dysphoria. Not depression. Two different things entirely. Dysphoria is that part of mania that's not fun. It's savage, nasty, and destructive. The polar (pardon the pun) opposite of euphoria.

Today I had a major brain seizure. I saw something on someone else's blog that set me off and I immediately went to town on this woman. I thought she had "stolen" something from my blog, The Knitting Curmudgeon. Um, no. But when I'm in the throes of a dysphoric episode, I can't see anything but red. Bright, bloody red.

When Dr. B told me that bipolar disorder is a seizure of the brain last year, I realized how right he was. Right before I go off the wall, I can feel the pressure in the back of my head. My brain is malfunctioning. You'd think at this point I'd be able to stop myself when this happens.

I didn't. I just went right on and ran my mouth. Fortunately for me, the object of my ire was gracious and understanding. However, I'm sure I left a big bad taste in her mouth. When I "came to my senses," as it were, I was bowled over as to what I had just done. And tried to make amends. I hope I have.

My loving gatekeeper, N, was out today, going on a job interview. He called me from the road and immediately said, "What's wrong, sweetie?" He always knows. And when I explained to him what happened, he told me he had thought I was a bit crabby this morning before he left. I hadn't seen that at all but looking back, he's right. I wish he had said something then but he was running late for his interview and didn't really have the time.

It's time for a medication review, for sure. With the fall coming and the "Danger Zone" of the shorter days, I need to see Dr. B this week before this spirals into something worse. Managing the disorder is always a full-time job but I believe that everyone needs a gatekeeper, someone who knows them well enough to put the kibosh on bad behavior.

N is that person. And I love him for it. I'm feeling better now. But that doesn't mean shit. The dysphoria is back and I'll give it a run for its money.