AND IT BEGINS…

So much to write about. Not sure where to start. Since Mom’s cancer diagnosis, I’ve been avoiding thinking about it. I had no choice but to face it dead on today. Mom had an appointment with her oncology doctor and I had to go with her to take notes and make sure she doesn’t forget anything or get confused. She starts chemo next week. Going to most likely lose her hair. It has been down to her waist as long as I can remember. So she’s getting it all cut off on Saturday. Poor thing. She had tears in her eyes thinking about it. And my life is now, for the next six months, revolving around her chemo treatments. Three hours every second Wednesday. Plus the consult with the doctor before each treatment. Only Stage Two cancer, which is not too bad. A really invasive, aggressive cancer that was encapsulated in a mucinous pre-cancerous mass. She’s pretty lucky. Without the chemo, there’s a twenty-five percent chance that it will come back. With it, the chance goes down to fifteen percent. She is going to become very cold sensitive, to the point where touching things in the fridge is going to cause neuropathy for a while. Cold air, cold drinks, all no noes. She is going to be officially immunocompromised. And I can only imagine how tired she’s going to be. The chemo attacks fast growing cells, like the ones in your mouth and your stomach.

She is easily discombobulated these days. And dad just gets frustrated with her. If she is developing dementia, I worry about how dad is going to handle it and how the chemo is going to affect it. There’s a lot of good reasons for them to move to P.E.I. once mom is better, but my reasons for wanting to stay behind are just as, if not more, valid. So in a year I’ll be homeless with my boys. Hopefully I’ll be able to get into subsidized housing before then, but the wait lists are huge. I need to stay in my city because I likely won’t be able to afford a car, and my therapist, my psychiatrist, my GP, my youngest sons ADHD specialist, and my older sons therapist are all here in the city. The mental health support down east is even worse than it is here. At least I’ve been able to get the help I need. And all my friends are here. How is an anti-social introvert with mental illness supposed to make friends? It’s not like my sister and I get along very well. More than a week together, and things get really tense.

My therapist has given me a half price discount on my counseling so I can start saving and clearing up my debt. She’s wonderful. I love her so much. As my therapist. Yes, there is some transference going on, but it’s nothing I don’t recognize for what it is and can handle. It didn’t help at the beginning that she is my perfect fantasy. A petite pixie with silver grey hair. The type I would spend all night in the corner of the bar trying to muster up the courage to buy her a drink. Once in a while I get distracted by her attractiveness, but I can cover it up with my dissociation. Fortunately for me, she maintains such tight boundaries that there is no room for me to mistake anything for more than professional concern. I mean, after three years I still don’t know if she has a partner. I only know her potential orientation from the name of her partner in her father’s obituary (which I found when digging around the internet for her). Her mother’s obituary listed no partner, but Fariya, a couple years ago said “they” like to go skiing up north. So there was one. There was a picture of a kitten on her desk, so I assume she has a cat. That’s the sum total I know about her.

She starts next week. Going to most likely lose her hair. It has been down to her waist as long as I can remember. So she’s getting it all cut off on Saturday. Poor thing. She had tears in her eyes thinking about it. And my life is now, for the next six months, revolving around her chemo treatments. Three hours every second Wednesday. Plus the consult with the doctor before each treatment. Only Stage Two cancer, which is not too bad. A really invasive, aggressive cancer that was encapsulated in a mucinous pre-cancerous mass. She’s pretty lucky. Without the chemo, there’s a twenty-five percent chance that it will come back. With it, the chance goes down to fifteen percent. She is going to become very cold sensitive, to the point where touching things in the fridge is going to cause neuropathy for a while. Cold air, cold drinks, all no noes. She is going to be officially immunocompromised. And I can only imagine how tired she’s going to be. The chemo attacks fast growing cells, like the ones in your mouth and your stomach.

So our lives are about to turn upside down for a while.

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

BLOOD AND PAIN

When the heart weeps Yet no tears come When words won’t come And all that is left Something That begs release Escape A way out From the too too much That cannot be Identified How does one Find relief From what one does not Recognize Except to let it out In blood And pain

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

WAY TOO FAST

Pulled down by the undertow
Staring up at the sun
Unattainable
Sinking fast

Tired of the fight
Can’t keep my head above the water
Current moving down
Way too fast

The salt on my cheeks
Can’t look up up
Overwhelmed by the tide
Way too fast

Drowning in my tears
Can’t breathe
Can’t see beyond the blood

Life drags by
Way too fast

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

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

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

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

My Brain Lies to Me

Those who struggle with any kind of mood or personality disorder are well aware of the ways our brains tell us lies. 

When we’re depressed they convince us no one loves us, we’re worthless and everything we do sucks. When we’re healthier,  we can recognize these thoughts a fallacies. 

When we’re manic, the world is our oyster and we can do anything,  including solving all the world’s problems,  if only the world could keep up with our super fast brain. Again,  no more true than the depressed lies, and equally as harmful. 

MY BRAIN LIES TO ME

Compassion for self
Cornerstone for recovery
So I am told
But how to be compassionate

When my brain hates me
Hell bent on a path of self-destruction
Lying about self-soothing
A twisted view of self-care

Yes cutting feels good
At the time
The sharp pain
The flowing blood

Followed by shame
Deep upsettedness at weakness
Scars a permanent reminder
Of the brains lies

Yes hardcore casual sex
Provides relief
A moment of connection
And release – a different pain

Followed by disgust
Another meaningless tryst
Violating my core self
For the temporary gratification
Of the brains lies

Yes bashing my heas
Feels amazing, calming
The endorphin rush, the slight dizziness
Even the slight headache at first

Followwd by a vicious headache
The tender lumps
Ignoring all of it
“You’re fine and deserve it”
The brain lies

The satisfaction of hitting
Something hard and solid
Releasing the anger
The frustration
A powerful release

Followed by swollen hands I cannot hide
The potential broken bones lived with
The pain a constant reminder
That I lost once again

To my lying brain

Breathe In

The past week I’ve been living in flashback hell. And not really coping well.  Three therapy appointments in one week and I’m finally breathing.

I find it interesting how breathing is the key to everything regarding recovery. Breathing and mindfulness.  And with the techniques and tools I’ve been taught,  I’m learning how to manage and stay present.  Drifting has been a huge problem for me this week   I’m hoping to be able to bring it back on more this week.

Breathe in
Against the tightness
Breath in
Against the rising tide

The Black fog’s
Tendrils reaching deep
Breathe in
Against the panic

Shallow
Breathing so shallow
Like a scared squirrel
Heart racing against hands
That cradle
But feel like traps

Lightheaded
Fear keeps the breath rapid
Respiration without depth
Unsafe the only thought
Breathe in
Against the urge to run

Abject terror
At nothing
Breathe in
Against the need to self destruct

The stars beckon
Come fly between
Soar up into space
Become one with the cosmos

Breathe in
Against the desire
To escape and never come back

Breathe in
Against the waters siren call
Breathe in
Against the invitation to sink
Embraced by the blanket of
Seaweed and foam

Breathe in
Against the ne’er-ending pain
Breathe in
Against the desire to give up
Breathe in
Against the exhaustion

Breathe in
The knowledge of your battles
Breathe in
Acceptance of how far you’ve come
Breathe in
And  continue the fight

Breathe in
You’ve made it through so much
Breathe in
The aftermath can’t kill you
Breathe in
Don’t let the aftermath kill you

CoMorbidity

Good Evening. 

I haven’t been posting as I’ve been dealing with some personal struggles.  And as anyone with multiple diagnoses can attest,  sorting out which symptom comes from what ailment is always fun.  Add the potential side effects from the meds we take to manage said issues,  and confusion becomes the order of the day. 

I have recently learned that a lot of  the side effects I was attributing to the meds are actually due to the C-PTSD.  Which changes a lot.  And makes more sense. 

I recently started seeing a therapist that specializes in trauma and stress. Because it interests me, and I read a lot about it, she’s been patiently explaining the biology behind what’s going on. 

And when you take bipolar and C-PTSD and put the symptoms side by side there’s a lot of overlap. So how does one figure out what the hell is going on? 

For me it’s learning how to be mindful. Multiple check ins  during the day. Learning my body’s nuances as I learn to recognize what I’m feeling and why. It’s an ongoing lesson with an ever changing learning curve. But with mindfulness,  diligence,  and a support system who can help you recognize what’s going on,  it is possible to not only cope but thrive. The key is to stick with it. If you do you’ll learn to recognize and,  eventually, manage your symptoms and achieve balance and live well. 

Lost

My tongue will tell the anger of my heart;
Or else my heart concealing it, will break:
And rather than it shall., I will be free
Even to the utmost, as I please, in words
–William Shakespeare

Sometimes the despair sets in and no matter how much you know it’s just your brain lying to you,  that suicidal ideation just gets stronger until it starts seeming like a viable option; an acceptable way to end the pain that seems insurmountable.  We all have our ways of coping.  I often just white knuckle through it.  More often I write. I write words that I never imagined that i would share.

Yet here I am.  Putting my heart out there.  Sharing the darkest parts of me in the hopes that maybe, just maybe,  someone will read them and realize they’re not alone and they, too, can over come the brains lies.

Joy is gone
The very colour is gone
All is now sullen shades of gray
Even the sweetest of wines
Taste as of liquid ashes

The breathe of life
Hurts as though knives
Are rendering the tenderest
Of flesh

My heart
Vainly pumping
Acid through my veins

Pain Hurt Despair

Where is the joy
The laughter
Life a burden
Without the sun

The emotional pain
Impossible to
Differentiate
From the
Physical

I draw a knife
Across my veins
I bleed red
A surprise

I expected it would be
Black

As my Thoughts
My Moods
My Eternal Soul

Black as a
Starless night
With no moon

I watch it pulse
Once
Twice
Thrice
And collapse

Release at last
My final
Conscious
Thought

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.

Chaos and Creativity

Hi there and welcome.  The hardest part of the beginning of any endeavour is knowing where to start. And sometimes when to stop.  But that’s a tale for another day.  So let’s start with a little bit about myself. My name is Squirrel. Have suffered my entire life with uncontrollable mood swing with no understanding of why. Until my wonderfully amazing therapist mentioned bipolar. And a light went off. Eventually. I fought the idea for a few months but after researching it I couldn’t deny the truth anymore.  And thus a very late understanding was achieved. 

I learned that some of my favourite artists suffered from bipolar.  I was now keeping company with some of the greats like Shelley, Byron, Woolf, Van Gogh, Plath, and Poe to name a few. This got the old squirrels in the brain turning.  What is the connection between art and madness? A huge one,  as it turns out.

One I’d like to explore through my own writing and experiences, and yours as well. Feel free to comment, share your thoughts and writings, or reach out and contact me if you feel the need of desire.

One request: keep it supportive and respectful. We all experience our journeys differently. Let’s celebrate those differences.

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