Thursday, August 28, 2008


I've been thinking about friends a lot lately. I've been asking myself why I have chosen some of the friends I have chosen. I've been asking myself if some of them have ever actually been my friends. Two friends in particular are on my mind. They were people I worked with 2 jobs ago that I have maintained contact with and now that we don't have the job in common, it seems like we have little else in common.

I befriended them because they seemed like lost souls and I am always a sucker for a lost soul having been one myself for so many years. We seemed to respond to things in the same way, especially things related to our job. They felt familiar to me on a very intrinsic level. I had always felt like a fuck-up and they felt like fuck-ups too and we had this in common. This is not a good basis for a friendship. Especially since I no longer feel like a Fuck-up and they still do.

Somehow I gradually took on the role of the confidant to them and they continually came to me for advice. In the beginning I didn't mind listening and being there for them, but as time passed, it became boring and my friends began to feel like burdens. I always felt drained when I was around them. I began to resent them. I wanted to tell them to go get a f***ing shrink and leave me alone.

Yet, I tolerated it because....I don't know why....maybe for several reasons. I suppose one reason was that I didn't want to hurt their feelings because I really did care for them and one of them especially is very vulnerable. And there was a part of me that felt good about being needed because somehow it makes everything that I've been through more bearable. But another reason is that I just plain couldn't figure out how to handle the situation gracefully.

I've always thought that people who turned a cold shoulder to people who are needy were cruel. Yet, I can see that they understood something that I didn't. They understood how hard it is to be in a relationship with some one who always needs something from you and never seems to get enough. Someone who only wants to talk about themselves. Someone who never seems to move on. Someone who is always in a crisis. Someone who has been dealing with the same issue ever since you have known them and never seems to learn anything from their mistakes. It's boring, boring, boring, boring, boring!!! It's draining, it's imposing and you don't mind being there if one day it is going to get better but some people never get better and I think my friends are those kind of people.

Gut Level Honest

I sometimes get this cold, dark thought that there is something intrinsically wrong with my friends, especially one of them that can't be fixed, and that she is a lost causes. And when I have these thoughts I despise myself. And I begin to feel that the way that I like to see myself, as a nice, understanding person, is just a facade. Not only am I just as bad as the people I criticize and call cruel, but I don't even have the character to admit that I feel the way that I do. Instead, I am smug and hypocritical, imagining myself to be above them in behavior when actually I am no better.

What do you do when you get that cold, dark voice inside of you and you realize that it is telling the unsentimental truth, stripped bare. Not the truth tied in a a pretty package with a bow on it....but the raw truth. What do you do with it when it isn't nice and you can no longer tell yourself that you feel differently.

What do you do when acknowledging the truth makes you feel like you have disappointed one of your own standards? What do you do when the truth is ugly and you've seen it and you know you will never be able to go back to not seeing it? What do you do when the truth is not flattering to people that you like? What do you do when you find out that you don't respect the people who you considered your friends?

What set me off and finally pushed me over the edge is that I finally recognized that my friends are very selfish. Simply, I have my own problems and I don't mind listening to you, that's what friends do, but I expect you to reciprocate from time to time and if you don't, you don't feel very much like a friend to me. You feel like a barnacle, a parasite, a tapeworm, a psychic vampire, a hole.

Sometimes when they talk to me I wonder if they even see me at all or if they are just searching for their reflection in my face.

I have often felt more alone when I am with them than when I am actually alone.

I wish they would stop it.

I have decided to stop talking to one of them because she is too rude. I am still willing to be friends with the other because I know she doesn't mean it.

Is having an opinion the same thing as judging. What is the difference? Has something similar ever happened to you? How did you reconcile it?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dear Demons,

I've been doing a lot of writing lately, not on my blog but on a forum for beepers. That's BPs or bipolars for all you normies (Yes! that's what they call you!) It is a online peer support group for people with bipolar disorder and it has been so great to finally have people to talk to who know what I feel! Because of this, I have been spending all of my computer time there. So, I thought that as long as I have been writing so much on this forum that I might as well make use of some of what I have written by transferring it here.

On the forum we talk about so many things
I have a wide pick of topics. This time I have decided to talk about this one: the way so many of us feel cut off from people who think that they know what bipolar disorder is but don't.
Now obviously, if you go around blurting out to everyone that you are bipolar, you will be judged and most of us don't do this because we understand that this is what will happen.
But sadly, we are also judged by people who are close to us or who we would like to be close to and this hurts and makes us mad. It hurts just because it does and it makes us mad because it is insulting on so many levels. I hope that this post will illustrate why.
I have one friend that seems to think that believing I have bipolar disorder means that I am neurotic and that my real problem is a negative and defeatist attitude. She seems to think that having bipolar disorder is not really all that important and can't be all that bad since I don't have very obvious symptoms. I suspect that she doesn't even believe that I have it. She subtly (she thinks!!) changes the subject if I bring it up at all and I know her well enough to know that it annoys her when I talk about it and that she thinks I'm whining. And honestly, I don't really talk about it all that much. She is no longer my friend.
I have another friend who thinks that I have jumped on the bandwagon. As I'm sure we are all aware, things like ADD, Bipolar Disorder etc...are often incorrectly diagnosed, especially in children. My friend has black and white thinking--because these things are over-diagnosed they don't really exist. He thinks I am naive and have allowed myself to be hood winded by an unethical or stupid doctor. I still love him but I don't talk to him about it anymore.
Unfortunately, his attitude is common. And for the record, contrary to what people seem to think, most of us actually don't want to take medicine and only do so after we have exhausted every other option. Then when we finally give in and take it and are well for the first time in our lives we are criticized.
Don't worry about what my friends think, they are only 2 people? Even if you never tell anyone that you are bipolar you hear these thoughts expressed enough in conversations that you experience the feeling of being judged by people who have no idea that they are judging you. Being prejudiced about mental illness is an acceptable prejudice in our society. This is a reason many don't seek treatment.
The list of symptoms in the DSM-V are very inadequate and this is a shame. Especially since they are usually used in articles intended for the layman to figure out that they may have bipolar disorder. It may well be the only information that people will ever have on the illness because once they look at the list and decide that it doesn't apply to them, they stop searching.
The list is not good. The list doesn't work. The list doesn't tell the whole story. It helps doctors but it doesn't help us. It is dry and clinical and does not even remotely describe all of the manifestations of the disease. It is so vague that someone who is not bipolar can recognize themselves in the description. It is so vague that someone who is Bipolar won't recognize themselves. It doesn't even come near to describing the hell we go through. I wonder how many people go undiagnosed because of this? If I were in charge I would include another list!! But since I am not a member of the AMA I can't change the list. So I have composed a letter instead, addressed to my demons. The real ones and the ones who live only in my head.
Dear Demons,
You seem to have lots of misconceptions about what Bipolar Disorder is and you try to make me feel bad about having it. You try to make me feel weak, you try to make me deny my own reality and you try to make me doubt my senses. So here are some facts, antecdotes and thoughts about Bipolar Disorder. After you read them, you can go back to the hell you came from and where you belong! Whisper to someone else because I'm not listening anymore.

Fact: Bipolar disorder is a disease with a genetic component. Yes, everyone gets down sometimes, many of us have mood swings and everyone feels the whole gamut of emotions that a bipolar person feels. We do not hold the monopoly on feelings. But we have mood swings to the point that it causes major problems in our lives and we have no control over these moods. To compare your moodswings to ours is like comparing a light breeze or even a somewhat severe thunderstorm to a hurricane. Sorry if this sounds elitist. It's just the way it is.
Anecdote: Common behavior of Bipolars--bipolars try to jump out of moving cars. Bipolars throw knives at people. Bipolars scream at people so hard that every muscle in their body is into making the scream louder and they get lesions on their vocal cords. Bipolars marry people they have only known for 3 weeks. Bipolars find it nearly impossible to keep a job, the only time some of us can hold a job is when the employer has decided to give us a break because they feel sorry for us. This feels like shit! Bipolar people try to set themselves on fire. Bipolar people run out of the house in their underwear when the person they are talking to tries to leave. Bipolar people act so bizarre that all their neighbors talk about them and make fun of them and won't have anything to do with them. Bipolar people have rage attacks in public places and are so embarrassed afterwards that they stop going to the place that it happened for over six months and only go back when they can safely assume that whoever was there at the time has stopped working there or won't recognize them anymore. Bipolar people freak out when they are having a conversation with someone and throw their plates of food or their beverages into the face of the person who has annoyed them. Bipolar people have strange things happen to them that makes them wonder if they just had a seizure. I knew a bipolar person who went through a period where they rhymed everything that they said and laughed hysterically at jokes that no-one else understood . Bipolars spend a significant amount of time feeling embarrassed by what they have done and wonder why they keep doing it. I may or may not have done some or all of these things. I'm not telling. I highly doubt that anyone within the range of what we consider normal does these things.

Fact: Bipolars produce higher amounts of cortisol (stress hormone) when under stress. They also have more receptors for these hormones. Both of these combined make them more reactive to stress. As each episode occurs, the neural pathways get more entrenched. After more and more episodes it will take less provocation to have an episode. This is called the kindling effect a term associated with epilepsy in which the more seizures a person has, the more seizure-prone they become. With Bipolars, there will eventually be such an effect on the brain that hardly any thing at all can trigger an attack. This is called rapid cycling and it's bad because basically it means you have brain damage.

Fact: Bipolars though often above average in intelligence, have shrinkage in the frontal cortex of their brains which becomes more marked over time, especially if the disease is not treated. This shrinkage is real but cannot be used as a diagnostic test because you can see this with other diseases as well, schizophrenia being the main one. This shrinkage causes problems with executive function and short-term memory and concentration. This is why they sometimes have trouble consistently performing simple tasks. They are not stupid and often feel mortified because they realize that they appear stupid!! They spend time obsessively taking online IQ tests just to convince themselves that they really aren't stupid.

Fact: When you recieve a stimulus or stressor from the environment, your amygdlia, the part of your brain that controls your emotions, recognizes it as something that it needs to respond to and shunts it to the frontal cortex to evaluate and decide how to respond. If the stressor is percieved as dangerous, the amydlia bypasses the frontal cortex and reacts instantaneously. This is called the fight-or-flight response. The amygdlia is enlarged in a bipolar. There are also differences in the part of the brain that connects the amygdlia to the frontal cortex. Basically, a bipolar has a brain that causes our fight-or-flight mechanism to kick in under very little provocation. We act without thinking based upon whichever distorted emotional signals we are getting from our brains.
Fact: Bipolars also have brain activity similar to people with temporal lobe epilepsy. Actually, it is identical until a certain point at which they split off and form different pathways. This is why Beepers and those with epilepsy share some common traits like developing excessive religiosity, having temper outbursts and having cognitive difficulties during an episode or seizure. Interestingly, anti-seizure medication is used as a mood-stabilizer for Bp's. I take an anti-convulsant..

Fact: Bipolars are typically carb addicts and often develop diabetes later in life. They are presently doing studies on the mitochondria of bp',s. They have found a mitochondrial defect that interferes with the utilization of glucose. This occurs specifically with BP's though not with all of them. They know that there is a connection to bipolar but have not determined what that connection is or how it influences the symptoms that a bipolar has.
Something to think about: The Americans with Disabilities Act protects someone with Bipolar Disorder exactly the same as it does someone who is blind or in a wheelchair. Remember! Americans have a very strong work ethic and don't think anyone should get disability unless they are ready to fall apart. The fact that you can get disability for being bipolar is a clue in itself. I used the Americans with Disabilities Act to negotiate a severance package when I lost my job.
Fact: Bipolars cannot get well by understanding themselves better or by talking about their relationship with their family. It will help them after they have been treated but not before. Herbs, special diets, organic, preservative-free food, exercise routines, meditation, standing on your head, Hail Mary's, rolfing, going to Sedona and standing in the Vortex, being more positive, saying, "I think I Can! I think I can!" None of these things will work. It is very dangerous and unethical as well to try to persuade a BP to get off of their medicine and you could possibly be endangering their life. Tom Cruise has killed people by shooting off his mouth. Google it if you don't believe me.
Historical Anecdote: People with bipolar disorder have been locked up involuntarily for years before medication existed that could help them. Bipolar people have likely been burned at the stake for witches. I hope they really were witches and put a curse on the people who burned them. Bipolar people were euthanized by the Nazis. And before anyone says, yes but these things don't happen anymore think again. Life can still be very dangerous for BP's. People who are Bipolar get the shit beat out of them because of behavior that they can't control In the last couple of years, two people were killed on flights because their bipolar symptoms were misinterpreted. And this surely happens more frequently than we are aware of, especially situations involving police.
Fact: You can't always tell by talking to someone who is bipolar that there is something wrong with least not until they have symptoms. In other words, if you are talking to someone who appears to be perfectly lucid it does not mean that they don't have it. And you shouldn't tell someone that they don't really have it. We are very good at hiding it and you may not know anything is wrong until we have symptoms and often our symptoms make us look like we simply have a rotten or weird personality. Telling us that we don't have it is very presumptuous.
Another face of the beast: There is a bipolar in which the person is mostly hypomanic---all the time!! Hypomanic is the good bipolar! If you have this, there is a good chance that you are rich. They are always cheerful and positive, don't need sleep and can work lots of overtime and still come home and write a novel and run a marathon. They just flip out everyonce in awhile and get weird for awhile. Don't tell a bp that you know someone who is very successful who has iBP as well, therefore they have no excuse for their lack of success. Most of us are not so lucky as to by hypomanic.
Something to ponder: There are unfortuately BP's who act crazy like a fox. They will use this illness to make excuses for themselves. They will not hold themselves accountable for things they have done or things that they are doing. They expect people to take care of them and look the other way when they misbehave. They play the system and allow themselves to be taken care of by others just because they can. They make it bad for those of us who are not like this. They probably have personality disorders. Bipolar Disorder and personality disorders often go hand in hand.
Rule of Ettiquette: If you have known someone who was mentally ill and acted this way, please don't think that we all this way. We don't all have personality disorders! Many of us are quite a matter of fact we spend so much time trying to figure out why things are happening to us and how we are playing our own part in it that we are often much more insightful than an average person.
Wish List: Please don't treat us like we are being manipulative and shirking our responsibilites when it is hard for us to go on. Most of us think very hard and do a lot of soul-searching any time that we ask for any kind of concession due to our illness. Most of us try any other route before we will finally ask for mercy. Most of us despise ourselves as weak when it gets so bad that we have to ask for help and are hurt very deeply when people don't believe us.
Lastly: If you meet a bipolar person remember that they are very strong or they wouldn't be standing in front of you. We are not weak because we don't handle our emotions well and because we get weepy and feel like we can't get out of bed. We are strong. If we weren't, we would all get guns and blow our brains out!! And no...I am not being sensationalistic.

So that's my little rant. It was very therapeutic for me and hopefully informative and not too boring. I hope no-one thinks that this was directed at them. It was not, it was directed to my demons.
Good-bye demons and oh....Fuck Off!