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.


Irene Johnston said...

Hi Marilyn:
I used to be a a "wild swinger" but the past few years I have been able to break these cycles with a small amount of ativan(.5mg/at bedtime) and monthly visits to a Chinese medical doctor for acupuncture treatments. Having said that, in order to stabilize my depressive episodes I am now on 100mg of Paxil and 350mg of wellbutrin daily. Having been a psychiatric nurse you will recognize that for most people this would probably be a lethal dose:) Fortunately for me I only struggle with extreme fatigue but the mood seems to be stable now for the past year. I hate to see another "soldier" wounded in this battle and I am keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. Even knowing that in time this will pass is still not very comforting when you are wrestling with terrifying thoughts and a feeling of hopelessness and paranoia. Hang in there. I'm so glad that you are still able to work and have come to the place in your illness where you are able to recognize when it is time to ask for help.

Sarah said...


Terre said...

thanks for your words, and also for reminding us to keep up the good fight.

mindy said...

So eloquently put- you keep fighting, and know that there are people wishing and hoping for you when you're in the midst of it- just as you hope and wish for others.

Anonymous said...

I am just getting over a week where I slept a mere 8 hours for the week. Marilyn, your description is spot on. The whole thing halos an eerily spiritual quality until the crash begins. Bless you. Thank you.