Medicating and reading

First, (it’s) The Medication, as a singer I know would sing.

Just when I was getting bored of being constantly depressed and convinced about my uselessness, the depression suddenly lifted and last two days have actually been… okay. Not particularly manic, not depressed, just… normal. I got things done. I had two meetings that could possibly result in getting some work when I’m able to do it. I had a workout. I had some nice time both on my own and with my boyfriend. And I remembered I have a blog, even, as you can see. It is a relief to finally feel human after 10 days of feeling like a burpy sexless depressed zombie.

Oh, yes, the side effects are a BLAST. First, I have constant indigestion. It took a break somehow yesterday, and I spent most of the day NOT burping and NOT feeling like my stomach was full of air, and then it came back today and I felt very disappointed because I had hoped the special effect was gone for good. Alas. Second, my libido is down to… half of what it was, roughly. Even though valproic acid is supposed to boost testosterone, that, with me, means I get muscles, lift haaard at the gym (not complaining here), get angry (totally unlike me) and haven’t got too much interest in sex. Not because I am too tired, after all, most of the time I do not much really. Just because I don’t feel like it much. Depressed bit is kind of self-explanatory. And the zombie?

Well, my mood is very stable most of the time. As in I don’t give a shit. I was finally feeling a bit up yesterday, and I got a letter from the benefit-giving part of the government, which I can roughly sum up as “Dear Oliveira, we’re going to take away your benefits the second you are declared to be fit for work. Not when you are employed, haha, that would be just STUPID. Hopefully you die quick. Love, gov’t”. It didn’t touch me. Today, a friend of mine that lives upstairs from me notified me that 1) he’s moving, and 2) he’s taking his Internet connection (which I have been, ahem, sharing) along. It didn’t touch me. I have moods and emotions, why not. They just don’t seem to depend on what’s actually happening.

Today I had a blood test, and I was recognised by the nurse. Result! I am a regular at the hospital! This is what I always dreamed of. (But that actually also doesn’t affect my mood so in a way who cares.)

*

Now some reading material.

  • We were talking on the bipolar forum a while ago about whether it is possible to recover, and we realised we’re not sure what that means. To some people recovery means being med-free and having the life they had before diagnosis. To some — full-time employment, medicated or not. To some — being able to survive outside hospital with help of social workers. Since we couldn’t agree on a definition, we also couldn’t tell how much of a possibility it was. Here’s an interesting article that might help define recovery in bipolar.
  • People with mental illnesses die of physical causes on average 20 years before people without mental illnesses. (TWENTY!!!!!) 20 Years Too Soon is a campaign devoted to changing that. Often the physical side effects/symptoms are ignored even by doctors that tell us “at least you’re not crazy anymore”. I hope to benefit from this campaign.
  • Pastor of an Edmonton church gives his opinion on the new bipolar movie.
  • Celebs come out as bipolar, and it’s a good thing, and it would be awesome to have more of them.
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The day one whines

Let’s be honest, this pill malarkey hasn’t been working too well recently.

I’m still in the initial phase of treatment and continue fighting off side effects. My valproic acid finally reached therapeutic dosage, it seems. It also reached dosage at which I feel I’d like to try a different medication. I have constant stomach upset, my libido as good as gone, and my hands are shaking. I am constantly depressed if I drop Seroquel and if I use it, I am less depressed but strangely enough more suicidal.

I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, don’t go to parties and sleep like a good boy from midnight to whenever I can get out of bed (between 8 and 9 mostly) but I am starting to feel it’s not really worth it. What’s the point if I am not feeling any better anyway? I stopped drinking because I noticed I was depressed the day after, but now I am depressed everyday so what’s the point? I don’t do drugs because I know that they don’t solve anything and they make me waste time because they cause me not to do any work, but I don’t do any work anyway, so what’s the point? I work out and wait for social worker to call me (she’s too busy), bank to call me (they’re too busy), my financial advisor to call me (too busy when there’s no money for him to be made) so… what’s the point? And because I am depressed, my mind has one very good solution to all the problems. A final solution.

I tell myself, this too shall pass. But even if I recover and get well enough to look for a job — say — in three months… what’s the point? I will always have this illness. I will always have to live with the threat of my extinction. I will always have to face the hours.

The day one gives thanks

So today is Thanksgiving. I have missed that, which is easy when you’re European, but now that I’m aware, I may as well say a few words. *clears throat*

There are ways in which I am thankful for my bipolar disorder. Those ways occurred to me recently after having had quite a few conversations with people who have never spoken to gods; they have never had a big funky red mohawk; they have never followed their dreams, because they were afraid; they have never tried many, many things I have tried. And they have never felt fearless, and I have felt fearless pretty much permanently for over a year now.

My hypomania last year started in such a way that I thought I was still depressed, just coping with it very well. You see, in August a boyfriend of mine broke up with me, via a text message no less. A week after that I went for a holiday. I was loud, proud, mohawked and enjoyed every second. Some of them a bit too much, as I found when I flew in the air having cycled down the mountain without using breaks because somehow I thought breaks were for grandmas and I completely ignored the fact mountains have, you know, mountain roads on them. There was no sadness in me; I enjoyed every second of that stay, and I didn’t enjoy any of them more than the second I landed on the ground with a loud thud.

You see, I felt more alive than perhaps ever before. It was pure joy. I have also realised something else: I felt no fear. Like most people, I spent my life fearing things real and unreal, realistic and unrealistic. And at that moment I have realised I was fearless in a completely unmetaphorical way.

I stayed fearless in the months that followed. I lost all my inhibitions and all my phobias. And at some point I’ve been told that I need to quit my antidepressant cold turkey and take a different medication, and I thought, well, there goes my fearlessness. Except not. I am now in a very exhausting mixed episode, which in a way brought my phobias back (largely because the cycling is so tiring that the brain seems to resort to old ways of doing things) but I still have no fear. I forgot what it feels like. When I was slowly trying to wean myself off my old antidepressant I felt slight pang of fear (in a completely appropriate moment too) once or twice and remarked surprised, oh, that’s how it feels. It’s gone again. I have no clue how fear would feel if it came back. I’d probably be quite terrified if it did (hear, hear).

The previous 12 months have been a truly crazy ride, whether in Slovakian mountains or here at home. I found a new career (which I am still trying to pursue despite current bad health); met a massive amount of people some of whom became great friends; slept with a lot of them and one of them became my new boyfriend in a completely unexpected way. I got a lot of compliments on my red mohawk. I did a lot of writing, recording, drawing and other arts. I had time to rethink my life and come up with a vision of what I want it to be, and then I had courage to pursue that vision.

While the mixed state now put a halt to a lot of my plans — and, yes, financially I am in deep shit — I am still grateful for the first part of the year. Many people, I found out, don’t get to see as much of life in years that I have in months. I experienced and experienced, and then I experienced more. Not bad for a person that used to be terrified of any social interaction, too shy to ever go to a bar, scared of new things and places and too focused on making mommy happy to ever think about whether he had any dreams at all. And for those dreams, and seeing a part of them come true (and hoping more of them will), I thank today.

*steps off soapbox to muted applause*

Now, where the hell is my turkey!!!

Denial not over yet I guess

Originally posted on the Psychforums

Not a very good day.

I went to a doctor from the employment office today. Basically here in Europe how it works is that I am now considered disabled temporarily, and the doctor decides when I can come back to work and in what degree. I had two slightly manic days in a row and felt quite good, but today overslept (almost brand new phone broke — switched off at night and won’t switch on anymore) and so I arrived quite sleepy.

The doctor talked to me, noted down my medication and asked questions. I expected her to be all like “and now go back to work you lazy bastard!!!” and instead she was very caring and nice, and then at the end said, I guess for now there’s nothing we can do, I will see you in three months and then contact your doctor to see if we can begin putting you back in the job market.

I am deeply upset by this, because I guess I was still in denial. You know those people who think mental illness isn’t real? I think that about my own, even though it tried to kill me and a few times almost succeeded. Recalling my suicide attempt from October (not exactly long time ago) made me depressed and upset, but by now I put it aside as long gone past. I am doing so well now, cycling “only” every 2-3 days. It’s so hard for me to admit that yes, I am indeed ill, and that I may be doing better than 3 months ago, but that doesn’t mean I am fully functional yet, and it may be a long time for me.

I am not being the man I want to be for my boyfriend or family. I used to be the rich guy giving lavish presents, always there when anybody needed a hand, providing help, being strong and inspiring. Now I am still trying to be that man but it just isn’t possible, and it makes me feel both guilty and frustrated. I can’t take my boyfriend anywhere, because I have no money. I can’t buy my family Xmas presents, because I have no money — I’ll try to send them something small but even that stretches my budget. I can’t be strong. I have to admit defeat. And that is not something I am good at.

The guilt, too… I feel like I am not enough for my boyfriend and family. I want to be the one people can count on; not the one that needs to count on people. My vanity gets a kicking from every direction at the moment. I said to a guy whose workshop I sometimes work at that I’ll come over and help him install a gate. Well, instead of that I am at home, depressed, trying unsuccessfully to drag myself to the gym. I want to do things, to achieve things, to recover and conquer the world again. I have no wish to sit on my ass being sad. When Ian posts about full recovery? Nothing less will satisfy me, and I want it NOW. Instead, the longer I see doctors and talk to them, the further away it seems to be drifting, and the fact that I am now sitting here depressed after having had a great weekend of course proves that I am not exactly fine yet.

More crazy perks

Yesterday I found out about a new book: graphic memoir, “Marbles — Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me” by Ellen Forney.

I am yet to buy the book (none of the stores I normally use has it, and it’s only available on iBooks US) but one thing I liked is the interview¬†on OPB (available on the page as audio file). There were many things that touched me about it. The fear of losing creativity was one of them — I share that one. The shift in identity — the “which bit is me and which bit is the illness?” is another one, and this Ellen resolves similarly to me, by realising there are no two separate beings, but just one — Ellen with disorder. And the crazy artist bit, which she describes in a way that is at once very amusing and touching.

Ellen talks about a time when she hugged a tree, crying, because she felt she had to do it. I could tell a similar story about myself, and one day I will. And we both seem to have had the same realisation: yes, it would seem crazy to people if they could see what we did… but… we ARE crazy. We are officially crazy artists!

In an odd way, this helps. I now have a good reason why my hair is whack and why I dress like that and why I do the things I do and why I write for four hours non-stop and then never touch the laptop for two months. Us, crazy artists, see: we do that. And as long as we manage not to kill ourselves, and to keep our ears intact, we might end up making some cool stuff.

In the meantime, I’ll be buying Ellen’s graphic memoir as soon as I have money to do so and it is available somewhere I can get it from without paying twice the price for shipping.

Crazy for you

I have had a disturbing moment last week, when — despite being on two different medications and waiting for a third one — a certain deity still spoke to me. I told the deity in question to, I quote, fuck off and die, and he went quiet. And then I thought, a few hours later, obviously I am indeed crazy. But there are perks to that.

I am on speaking terms with a pagan god. If I said to many, many people that Jesus speaks to me, it wouldn’t be crazy, it is somehow only crazy when your imaginary friend has a different name. And my imaginary friend is quite an interesting one, and in a way at the beginning of the year I felt like the chosen one to be able to speak to him. Why not continue enjoying my chats with him instead of getting upset that there I am getting all crazy again?

“Suffering” from bipolar disorder isn’t always that painful. The hypomania for instance wasn’t painful to me at all. Being creative, having lots of sex, being happy and social isn’t the worst thing that has ever happened to me. Neither is being on first name terms with a pagan god, who may or may not be my father. There’s more than one god that you can call “our father”. And whether he lives in heaven, Valhalla or any other realm inaccessible to mere mortals isn’t really the most important bit.

I have a very unusual haircut, lots of tattoos and piercings in my face and in other body parts. Yes! I am crazy! I can do those things and nothing you can say about that applies to me! RESULT. (Well, I don’t really think about myself like that, but you get the picture, right?) Yes, perhaps it is mania that makes me dye my mohawk red, but today I was chatted up by a gentleman in his sixties, who congratulated me, mentioned his kids had hair like that 20 years ago and, generally, expressed his jealousy. If it’s mania that gets me interactions like that, I’ll keep my mania.

(Don’t ask me about the bit where I am depressed though.)

Memories

One of my friends said in disbelief: since this diagnosis it’s like this illness took over you! You used to be so positive and energetic, and now you’re depressed and sad! What the hell is going on?

Well.

It’s not like that at all.

I first felt depressed in 2004, and my depression had highs and lows all the time — what I would now call ultra-ultra-rapid cycling. Two hours of wanting nothing but death. Two hours of accomplishing things. Two hours of wanting nothing but death. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Try to kill yourself. Realise perhaps once things got so far, you might actually speak to a doctor FIRST. Get “cured” in 2006. Spend five years without medication.

But now that I look back at the last years, I can see long cycles of hypomania and mixed states/depression happening. Things that I thought were normal, but now that I know about bipolar disorder, they look a bit less normal.

My sudden infatuation with Jesus Christ in 2005. I thought Jesus was awesome, a beautiful long-haired bearded man with a message of peace, someone between a hippie and a very good person. In fact, a bit like me. In other news, I am and have always been an atheist. Well, always except those few months when I was suddenly totally into Jesus. Never happened before and never happened after. (Instead, I discovered neopaganism.)

My purchase of electric guitar, with full conviction I would become a guitar pro. Guitar gathering a layer of dust so thick you’d think it’s a tennis racket. My purchase of a USB DJ set, with full conviction I would become a laptop DJ. USB DJ set gathering a layer of dust. My sudden purchase of motorbike leather pants. Motorbike leather pants… you see the pattern. (I learned by now that if I have this sort of ideas, it is good to wait a few days before committing to them fully.)

Long hair. Mohawk. Buzz cut. Semi-long hair. Mohawk. Blonde hair. Black hair. Red hair. Ginger hair. Silver hair. (Very short-lived, it made me look 70.) Blonde streaks.

Not much of libido, one semi-interested encounter per week. Libido shooting through the roof, hunting for sex daily. Repeat both phases every now and then.

Being shy, withdrawn and terrified to be spoken to. Being a soul of the party and talking to everyone.

Sitting in my corner of the bar hoping nobody will notice me. Walking around and hitting on four different guys, getting them all to undress, starting to have sex in the middle of the bar with three of them.

Two-year creative break where I didn’t make any music, did a bit of writing. Followed by a creative spell in which I wrote 30 songs, made remixes, wrote half of a book (which I then got bored of), half of another book (which I also got bored of), had an idea for a book of short stories (subsequently abandoned), put out two albums (then decided to give up singing).

This sounds stable, right?