MED COMPLIANCE

It’s kind of cool, at the end of the week, to look at your weekly pill box and realize that you haven’t missed a day, and it’s been a few weeks since you missed a dose. For someone like me who struggles with med complaince, this is huge. And I’m still struggling. I’ve been feeling pretty stable the last little while, so the first thing I think of is, “I can go off my meds!” Of course, my therapist,the wonderful grounding presence that she is, immediately responds with, “Maybe it’s your meds making you feel this good.” So, of course, I bring it up to my GP, who handles my meds. “I want to see you stable for a longer period of time. And back to work. Maybe once you’ve been at work for a year we can look at tapering back a bit.” Talk about feeling deflated. Stupid brain. Can’t make it’s own feel good chemicals. And I know, I know all about the comparisons to heart medicine or diabetes. The brain is just like any other organ that can, and does, malfunction. And there is nothing wrong if your brains happiness needs a boost from the wonders of modern medicine. But I have to wonder, if treated today with our vast assortment of chemical bliss, would Van Gogh have painted Starry Starry Night? Would Byron and Poe have been so eloquent and prolific if their fits of melancholy were treated with modern medicine? Would Shelley have written oh so beautifully? Byron was well aware of the connection between madness and creativity. He wrote, “We of the craft are all crazy. Some are affected by gaiety, others by melancholy, but all are more or less touched.” Sure, there are many examples of people being medicated and having successful careers. A quick google search provided me with the names of ten poets currently living with mental illnesses. I wonder how/if they’re all medicated. My medication makes me dull, and creativity is hard. When I’m unmedicated, the words fly to the page easily, too easily I’ve been told. Those words are hard to follow, syntax becomes strange. Even given the free nature of verse, mine becomes difficult to embrace. Kay Redfield Jamison writes quite freely about her battles with bipolar disorder. She knows the dangers of not being med compliant. Yet she wrote a whole book, “Excuberance”, about the very thing lacking in my life with my meds. I tried lithium, but the amount I needed in my system to keep it at therapeutic levels was too high, and the side effects too great. So I’m on the mood stabilizer aripiprazole, to help boost the anti-depressant that I’m on. And I can’t tell which one makes feeling deeply and passionately difficult. So for the sake of my mental health, my creativity suffers. Some days I have to ask myself is it worth it. Then I look at my two boys and realize a subdued mom is better than no mom.

HOLDING MY OWN

How good it feels to be away from the edge of The Pit. Despite being mostly housebound due to inclement weather, I have been feeling pretty good. Maybe because I haven’t had to be social. Who knows. I’m enjoying it while it lasts. Can’t help but wonder, though, if this is a shift toward hypomania. the pdoc I saw didn’t see a bipolar diagnosis. Borderline Personality Disorder, Complex PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and, finally, Persistent Depressive Disorder. She said there is a lot of overlap with BP and BPD, so sometimes it’s hard to get a clear diagnosis.

A new year always brings with it some reflection. I’m not the type to make new years resolutions,; my goals change as I grow and change. And I wanted to take the time to give thanks to the woman who led me through the darkness to the light. I wrote a poem for her, and gave it to her just before we broke for the holidays. She never said anything about it, so I should probably not be embarrassed by it. I thought I’d share it with you.

A ship with a broken compass

Tossed on the waves

Hither and yon

Sinking slowly

Trying to find my way

By a North Star

Lost in a sky

Of darkness and despair

The clouds thick

Ever present

Blotting out the light

Along came a guide

Showed me how to mend

That broken compass

To fight my way

Back to the light

Behind the clouds

The siren song

Is still loud at times

But I have a gift

A toolkit

Cobbled together

Patiently guided

With grace and skill

To heal the wounded

Children within

SIREN

The last few weeks have been brutal. I know in the very depths of my being that things will get better, but right now they’re just so hard.

SIREN

I stare at the water
It’s aqua waves calling
Inviting to slip under
Into Oblivion

I walk away
From the Sirens call

The blades in my hand
Beckoning tantalyzing
One quick swipe
And freedom

I walk away
From the Sirens call

Through the heart
The silver moonlight
Dances on the thinnest of knives
Kill the heart
That causes all your pain

I walk away
From the Sirens call

I walk away
From the Sirens call

WHO AM I

Numb

An emotional lockdown
Fearful
That once the walls crumble
There will be no relief

Sorrow
Runs deep
Permeates my very essence

If I allow myself to feel
The full depths
Would I ever recover

Fear of getting “better”
Of never getting “better”

I’m not sure I could bear
That this is the way
It will always be

Yearning
For a family that doesn’t exist

For what worth have i
If I’m rejected by those
Who share my blood

That nameless ache
Undefinable
Intangible
Pervasive

Both physically
And in my pysche
A part of me

Steadfast
True

Who am I?

LIGHT AS THE BREEZE

it’s been so long since I’ve felt the pull of hypomania. And right now as I sink ever deeper into the pit, I find I’m missing the ethereal highs. Right now all I feel is despondency and despair. And I can’t even cry about it. The freedom to cry has been locked down so tight for so long that the tears won’t flow freely. Oh, my eyes, they water, and I get a lump in my throat, but just silent tears running down my cheeks. Not satisfying at all.

I wrote this while coming down from a hypomanic high. Back when I was undiagnosed and, or rather, misdiagnosed, with unipolar depression. One day I may lose myself in the upward pull, but today is not that day.

LIGHT AS THE BREEZE

Free at last
Running soaring
Leaping flying
Unburdened by despair

Hope no longer
Just another
Four letter word

Light as the breeze
A leaf on the wind
Blowing where it takes me

Whirling
Spiralling
Up and down

Disintigrating

Into

Nothing

HYPOMANIA!!!!!!!! 

As many of us bipolar bears, I have been on a cocktail of numerous psychotropic drugs.  While keeping me from being actively suicidal, they have definitely left me feeling numb.  No severe lows, but no highs either. This feeling flat has robbed much enjoyment out of my day to day existence.  So after being on it for two years, and my blood levels getting lower and lower with the same fairly high dose, we started titrating it. Once down to 600 mgs spread out over two doses, my doctor let me quit it completely. And within days my mood skyrocketed. Hypomania for the win.  After being disinterested in everything for so long this has been a welcome change. 

Of course, there’s always a downside, isn’t there.  Impulsive behavior. Reckless reckless thoughts.  Knowing the outcome is always the same doesn’t make not giving into them any easier. Thankful for a solid support network and an understanding, yet firm, therapist. Who is letting me email her through the holidays if necessary, as I’m in a “vulnerable place” right now. 

So happy holidays to all and may you stay safe. 

Squirrel

CONTRACTS

So I just realized it’s been almost three months since my therapist renewed my “Contract For Survival”.  Basically it’s a comittment to use my tools before self-harming, and to check myself into the hospital if the suicidal ideation becomes more than just ideation.

What got me thinking about it is tonight I really feel like self harming.  I’m not depressed, I’m not triggered, I just feel the need to feel SOMETHING.  Since my last med adjustment, life has felt flat. As miserable as being in The Abyss was, at least it was something.  I miss the highs, and am starting to wonder if the lows aren’t worth the price to pay.

My life feels like boring pastels, just a shade up from gray.  No vibrancy, no fire.  I miss the fire.  And it’s not as though I get manic, I just suffer from low grade hypomania.  Bad decisions regarding money, sex, whatever.  But isn’t that what life is about?  Making decisions that leave you feeling alive?  NOT stuck in some dull, flat, emotionless pit.  Recently I just had three of my poems published in an ebook.  That were requested. And I was excited for precisely 23 minutes.  And then back to ho hum. And that lack of reaction made me realize I’m missing out on so much emotion because I’m dulled.  Even my poetry is lacking.  It’s so frustrating.  First, the cognitive dulling, now the lack of emotion. I feel like a golem, going through the emotions, pretending to be human.

So this week I’m asking my doctor if we can take my lithium down to 600mg from 900, withough increasing the 15mg of Abilify I’m on. Wish me luck, I think I’m going to need it.

And no, I haven’t self harmed, at least not yet.

FREE FALLING

When you’re just a ball of hurt
Of pain
Nothingness is a welcome state

No matter how high you fly
You carry with you
The added weight
Of locked down sorrow

Conscious always
That the Black Fog
Will rise again
And engulf the sunshine

These happy states
Fleeting
Temporary
Before your brain defaults
To black despair

It’s Too Quiet

Quiet in my brain today
Too quiet
No noise
No static
No demands

The squirrels asleep

The calm
Before the storm

Am i going up
Through the stratosphere
Or down
Into the very
Pits of Hell

The Inherent Dichotomy of Co-Morbidity

It’s a crazy thing, to be hypomanic and still be suffering the effects of C-PTSD. Complex or chronic post traumatic stress disorder. Mixed with cyclothemic bipolar renders all states crazy. I’m currently on my way out of months of depression, a few days in a mixed state, into full blown hypomania. Yet the Darkness is never far away. I can be flying high, enjoying the state, working on my novel, writing poetry, even basically things like cleaning, which, by the way, are much more fun when you’re manic. Everyday tasks are almost a joy, since I’m so scattered I’m not even sure what I’m doing. (Like using a glue stick instead of lip balm, but I digress, that’s a story for another day). Where was I, oh ya, even in the midst of joy, where the sun is shining, (well, it’s raining and gray, but it’s shining in my heart for once) and I can smile. When Bang! Out of the great blue yonder comes a flashback. When I’m depressed, they drop me even deeper into the Pit, down into the Abyss of suicidal despair. In a mixed or hypo/manic state, they leave me edgy, restless, ill-at-ease, frightened. Which transmutes into Irritability. Hyper and irritable. Sucks. And leaves me feeling

Broken

Haunted eyes
Hollow and empty
Of naught but fear

Another sleepless night
Or dreams filled with terror
The power you still have
Over me
So many years later

Remnants return
Out of nothing
And your hands
Your cologne
The weight of your body
Memory returns

Physical

Emotional

Love is earned
Only through pain
Subservience

Lessons I learned
So very well
Shaped the core
Of who I am

Broken

Tarnished

And yet a small crumb of solace, the suicidal ideation is at bay, and while being edgy and restless isn’t great, it is infinitely better than being outright suicidal and knowing you can never act on that desire because you don’t want your kids as fucked up as you are.

So have a great weekend all, and play safe.

Ah The Flip Side of Depression 

Bipolar. Two polarities. Manic and depressed. And the wonderful state that lies between known as hypomania. 

After suffering many months of depression with suicidal lows, I have slowly begun the assent in “normalacy”. And poets are allowed to make words up. The Bard made all kinds of words that are now in our everyday lexicon. But I digress. Now it appears that I am sliding, ever so gently, into hypomania. And though I SHOULD be concerned, I’m not. 

It’s hard to think something’s wrong when you can see colour. When you find yourself smiling for no other reason then your soul wants to. To feel too warm or too cold and care about how you feel. (Unfortunately my last set of blood work showed my lithium below therapeutic levels, so I can’t really hope my brain is functioning as it should). 

I find my writing reflecting this current mood. Enjoy. 

The Fire burns deep in the soul
Awakened as ne’er before
Eyes a-light with unholy embers
As passions unknown
Unnamed
Speak out enticing
Wild untamed adventures

Urging on
To heights unimaginable
Spurring to go
Further than e’er before

Consequence be damned
To live out the Heart’s Song
Unbridled
At the whim of this
Burning soul

Mixed States and Hypomania

After months of feeling depressed,  with suicidal lows,  the last few days I can only describe as a mixed state: depressed and elevated at the same time.  This basically translates, for me, as edginess. Extreme edginess. 

And yesterday it started edging up into feeling good. Really really good. My brain is racing, I have boundless energy, and I feel as though, with enough encouragement, I could fly. Even typing this is painful, for my fingers can’t move as fast as my brain is giving them words to say. It’s going so fast that it’s shutting down at times (but maybe I’m just dissociating and my hypomanic brain just wants to pretend it’s rebooting).  So I tried to write about what it’s like.

Swirling thoughts
Running
Racing
Can’t keep up

Shut down

The squirrels spin
A million light years
A second
Every word down
An enormous draw
Of energy

Boundless

My body tingles
Filled with power
Trying to find an outlet
To burn

Like fire

In my brain
My heart
My soul

Searing heat
That twists
And broils
Merging with my thoughts

My desires
My needs

Streaming outward
Upward
To the sky


And Up We Go

So after months of being one hundred types of depressed and anxious,  the past three days have been a glory of the joy of the mixed state.  Hyper and depressed at the same time.  It is a weird place to be and feels dangerous. I hope it passes soon into a full blown hypomanic phase; I could use some feel good time. 

But that brings up an interesting point: I tend to want to deal with the upswings the way I deal with the down swings: by self harm.  A little while ago,  I was forced to look my self harm in the eye with a contract that my trauma therapist had me sign.   And since I’m working hard at getting better,  I decided to inventory all the ways I self harm. I mean,  there’s the obvious types,  the drunken bouts,  the cutting, the casual sexual encounters,  but there’s so many subtle ones,  insidious in their perfidy. 

I came to a semi lucid conclusion that I react to both the highs and lows the same way because the same emotions underlie both states, Pain being first and foremost. 

And that is a hard admission for me to make. I don’t like owning my emotions. Hell,  I don’t like admitting that I even have emotions. I’d love to be an emotionless android, but such are daydreams of childhood. 

The Longest Nights 

It’s not even midnight yet and I can feel the Flashbacks and nightmares creeping around the corner.  I’m afraid to close my eyes.  I’ve been irritable for a few days now.  Almost like my brain was preparing for this.  It sucks that there is no respite.  Ever.  I may go a few weeks without one,  and then   BANG! It hits like a freight liner. I’m seriously beginning to believe the only escape will be when I die.  Which can’t come soon enough. 

Would that I
Could curl into a ball
And melt into the ground
Absorbed by the Earth

Would that I
Could stretch my arms wide
Transmute  into
Dust

Borne on the wind 
Dissipating into
Nothingness


Would that I
Could close my eyes
And sleep evermore
Escaping from this
Waking hell

To Take Them or Not 

Most of us with bipolar struggle at some point with compliance with our treatment plans.  The side effects of our meds make us wonder if they’re really worth the benefits.  We start feeling better and think we don’t need them anymore.  The stigma if having to take psychotropics. 

I don’t mind the Abilify and the Cipralex but I detest the lithium.  Absolutely detest it.  I had hoped the Abilify would replace the lithium completely but my doc says they have to work together.  And insurance coverage is dependant on my following my treatment plan.  Which means I have to stay on the lithium.

My wonderful therapist has given me some amazing insights on minimizing the emotional and psychological impact having to take it has on me.  But the struggle is still there. 

I stare at the pills in my hand
Loving to hate them
Refusing to love them
Little pills of
Artificial sanity
Correcting
Misfiring neurons
Replacing
Missing chemicals
With manufactured
Emotions

When My Heart Weeps 

A few weeks ago I came very close to drowning myself.  The emotional pain was so overwhelming I was in the lake before I even realized it.  I subsequently went home  and self harmed.  So my trauma therapist put me on a Contract for Survival.  Basically I contracted with myself to in no harm my person.  

My word is my bond. If you matter enough to me I to give you my word I will go to whatever lengths necessary to keep it.  And therein lies the rub.  The contract isn’t with her.  It’s with me.  And I don’t set my life at a pins fee.  So where does that leave me.  Stuck in a kind of limbo.  And nights like tonight…  Well…  the struggle is real. 

When the heart weeps
Yet no tears come

When words won’t come
And all that is left
Is an unnameable
Something
That begs release

Escape

A way out
From the too too much
That cannot be
Identified

How does one
Find release
From what one does not
Recognize

Except to let it out
In blood
And pain

Another Night in Hell

Suicidal ideation. Scary scary thoughts. That sometimes turn to action before you’re even aware of what’s going on. The daily struggles the nightly demons sapping your strength. Your will.

But the fight goes on. The strength some how is found to carry on. Survive and fight another day.

Knee deep in the water
Wading out further
Calm
Serene

What the fuck
Am I doing here?

It’s cold
It’s wet
My kids need me

Calm serene
Peaceful

I turn around
Walk back into hell

Long Nights Longer Days

It’s always difficult to know where the source of insomnia comes from.  There’s so many variables, and most of them harbingers of rough times. I know difficulty sleeping often precursors a major mood shift for me, whether it be up or down.  I could use a little up. I’m not sure how much latitude I have to slide before things start to get dire. Leonard Cohen wrote words that have provided comfort many times.

“THE ONLY POEM”

I didn’t kill myself
when things went wrong

I tried to sleep
but when i couldn’t sleep
I learned to write
I learned to write
what might be read
on nights like this
by one like me

I too am a poet. I dabble with writing, but my heart and soul come out in verse. Sharing pain tends to lessen it, but my words stop in my throat. So I write. Like those before me: Shelley, Byron, Woolf, Hemmingway,Plath, Styron. So many that didnt make it. Whose craft wasn’t enough to carry them through. I hold them in my heart as a warning that the craft is no protection from a broken mind. And those that did it through the black hours, the black fog that removes all hope . I hold them in my heart with hope, that in many ways the craft provides a small head lamp, a small light in the blackness.

Love
No pit is so deep
No Abyss
Endless
As long as there is Love
There is Hope

HOPE

When you’re in the middle of a depressive bout Hope is on short supply.   Hope to get through it as intact as possible.  Hope that you’ll actually get through it.  That the siren’s call won’t get you and you’ll wake each day until The Black Fog passes. 

When you’re feeling stable,  Hope that it lasts keeps you going.  Hope that you won’t crash.  Hope that you won’t fly.  (Though to be honest the early stages of flight can be fun).  For me when I’m feeling good Hope is a cloud of colour and I’m surrounded by a Black Fog trying to encroach on my current state. 

The colours exist
Surrounded by a cloud of Darkness
The colours ebb and flow
Like the tide

The Black Fog
Fighting to encroach
To kill the Joy
That brings the brilliant hues
To vibrant life

Their endangered existence
Threatened by
Eternal Ebony clouds

Bi-Polar, C-PTSD, and Me

Are we our diagnoses, are they us, or is there some sort of medium where we can be us, certainly shaped by our illness(es) but not defined by them.  My diagnoses came late in life, after being treated, inaccurately (and thus with a resounding lack of success for almost 20 years), for major depressive disorder.  I recently found an old book of poetry I had written back in high school, and one of the poems from when I was 16 could have been written by me, today, in a hypomanic phase.  I prefer phase to state, it seems less foreboding and permanent.

I used to pride myself on the fact that my past may have shaped me, but it didn’t define me.  Someday I might share with you the rough history that is mine, but not today.  Suffice it to say that my therapist used the term “very horrific” to describe my legacy.  Unfortunately, I have had to accept that fact that it did do more than shape me, it did, indeed, define me and the numerous ways I see myself.

But that’s ok.  Language evolves.  Definitions change.  And the me that is today, defined by my experiences, does not have to be the me of tomorrow.  I can learn to make better choices, do things differently.  And when the siren’s songs come, I can make choices toward the future, as opposed to reacting from the past.

Mindfulness, being aware of what you’re doing and WHY you’re reacting a certain way, helps to create new habits, new understandings, and new approaches.  Am I there?  Not even close.  Do I believe?  Yeah, today I do. It’s damn hard, but somehow, some way, I will find the strength to overcome.  I have to.

The alternative is untenable.

Is Madness the Price I Pay 

It’s a conversation that comes up periodically: would you give up your creativity for a “normal” brain. Ignoring the  whole what is normal debate, the question still seems valid. Is my poetry, my language, my voice, my gift from my faulty brain chemistry?

If we ever find the right med combination, what am I going to do if I lose the spark that’s my creative center?

With the depression holding strong, and the suicidal ideation a constant companion I find myself ruminating about it. Better than ruminating about death, I suppose.

But I don’t know the answer. I know when I’m hypomanic my writing flows but is disjointed. When depressed it glows but is dark. Both represent me. Am I either one or some broken remnants of a once whole self?

The sun shines
Dispersing The Black Fog
Tendrils wrap around my mind
Lurking
Waiting
For The Clouds
To return

To weave a blanket
Of sadness and despair
Around my heart and soul

The sun burns fierce
Setting fire to the blanket
As the Tendrils retreat
Deep within my mind
Waiting for the next cloudy day

Self Awareness

Good evening.  Or morning.  Whatever part of the day it is for you. Hope your weekend was well. I spent mine thinking about self awareness.. A bit difference than mindfulness.   Having come late to the BP party with 20+ years of being misdiagnosed, I find myself microanalyzing my moods.

Every mood swing is torn apart.  Is this the beginning of a depressive episode? If I’m feeling good, am I on a hypomanic upswing?

I find it difficult to stay present and in the moment.  I’m learning, though.  When the squirrels in my brain won’t stop over thinking every nuance to my emotional state,  I do a 3 minute meditation.  Helps me realize that mindfulness of my mood is important but not to the extent that it takes over my thinking and my life.

Awareness is important. But so is just staying present and living in it.

COME

Come with me
Take my hand
And let us fly
Far above the storm clouds of my mind
Come
Take my hand
Trust me
You will not come to any harm
I cannot say you will not hurt
My mind is dark the journey darker
Trust me to share it with you
As I trusted you
So many times

Come
Take my hand
As we rise above
the madness in my mind
Below the pit
The loathsome hole that enters
Into the darkest of all places
The Abyss where hope is lost
Where I cower in the corner
Afraid to move
Afraid to feel
Where breathing is work
And just existing a herculean effort
Of exhaustion

Come
Take my hand
As we are buffeted
By chaotic uncontrolled thoughts
Whirling like a Sufi dervish
Spinning going nowhere
Piled one on top of the other
The bedlam of ideas tangled together
to sort out coherently

Come
Take my hand
As we ride above the maelstrom
No more ordered than before
But less dark

Invincible
Bulletproof
Reeling brain notwithstanding
There’s is nothing I can’t do

Come
Take my hand
As we fly above the lake
My calm place
The water dark
Like flowing ink
Old coffee foam where it meets the shore
Take a deep breath of air
Redolent with pungent aroma
Of decaying seaweed
The wind rushing in our ears
Clouds above thick and dark
Obscuring all the light

Come
Take my hand
As we breathe the peace and serenity
Here in this place
The only place my brain slows
Just enough to realize
How truly damaged it is

Come
Take my hand
I’ll bring you back
Away from the madness
The craziness

The Chaos

I set you down
Let go of your hand
Safe on the solid grounding Earth
And fly off onto the maelstrom