I think he’s like, bipolar or something…

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I wanted to write this evening about something that has stuck in my mind for a long time. There were two incidences, several years apart, but they are very similar. They are both examples of stigma and how uninformed many people are about mental illness. Both occurred where I was working at the time, and both involved a discussion between co-workers (myself included). In each scenario several of my co-workers were talking about a regular customer, an acquaintance (more of mine than anyone’s). Each customer was a regular at each place I worked. Most of us had close to daily interactions with them, mind you they were the typical superficial interactions that a coffee shop regular would have with a seasoned barista. The customers were regular enough that we had plenty of time to observe each of them, their mannerisms and their perceived characteristics.

"He was different, very quiet. He kept to himself a lot."
“He was different, very quiet. He kept to himself a lot.”

In the first workplace, I actually had a chance to sit and chat several times with the gentleman and I happened to really like him. I could see how he could come across different or even a little strange, but he was actually quite interesting and very nice. He was just really quiet and kept to himself. He always walked to and from the shop and dressed like someone who might live a simple, natural life in a cottage by a lake. I could see why they found him to appear out of place.

In the second workplace, I had never personally met the individual, but I was listening to the conversation of a couple of my co-workers and immediately got the impression that he was not a nice guy. He clearly had some issues and they seemed to find it quite acceptable to make it clear that he was screwed up and most certainly not a good person. He had major issues, in their opinions.

In both situations, the conversations drifted to an end with exactly the same conclusion. Not one that was based on any previous training or understanding of the “diagnosis”, mind you. Nevertheless, it wawomen-gossip-at-work-e1359396952867s clear to them. The first pair, about a man that they had never actually spoken to, agreed that “Yeah, he’s bipolar. He creeps me out so much.” The second pair, the two that I was considering sharing that I have bipolar, quite simply stated, “I’m pretty sure he is like, bipolar or something.”

“I’m pretty sure he’s like, bipolar or something.”

This sentence has silenced me for far too long. Those conversations still paralyse me.

These people had no idea what qualifies as bipolar disorder. They didn’t know that I was bipolar. I am quite certain that neither of those men were bipolar. Those two scenarios pop into my mind often. I have not come out about my bipolar disorder to many people, and it is situations like that that keep me silent. It is my impression that bipolar disorder is perceived to be an illness whose sufferers are plagued with unsavoury characters, that they are selfish, dangerous or miserable. They are strange and not to be trusted. That is my experience of how those who do not know anybody personally (that they know of) who has bipolar disorder perceive a person with bipolar disorder to be. It scares me frankly. It makes me worry that suddenly those who I have been close to will immediately question every moment that we have spent together, that they will suddenly see me as something else. Someone that is not safe, that needs to be kept at a distance. This is stigma. This is what it does and how it feels.

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Sometimes I imagine what would happen if all of us with bipolar disorder were to come out and tell the world at the same time. At least there would be an accurate representation of what bipolar disorder looks like, acts like, is. They are people that they like, love and have known as friends for many years. That is what bipolar looks like. Just like the person they are sitting next to, sharing another story about the strange guy who just came in for coffee again.

Depression ~ My Perspective

Depression and laziness are not the same thing. ~BPScorpio

I am coming out of a severe depression that has lasted for almost an entire year. It began to subside, slowly, about three months ago. When I say slowly I mean, I could start to remember what I did the day before, dates, appointments. I could finally take a shower and even use shampoo.

I really hate depression. It makes me feel lazy. What’s worse, it makes me feel like other people think that I am lazy. “Get up and go outside for a walk, it’ll make you feel better!” “You don’t have it that bad, look at how good you have things!” Add more guilt here. Do they not know that I would do almost anything to have the energy to get up and go for a walk? I would love to comb, and blow-dry my hair? Maybe add a little make-up and put something nice on? That’s funny. Those things are out of the realm of what I would do almost anything for. I would do almost anything to have the energy to take off my sweats and take a shower that includes washing my hair, shaving, oh my god the nightmare! I always do it, eventually, but I wish just one person could feel how physically difficult it is to do those things.

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I loathe depression. Lying there, knowing how many things you need to do, appointments to go to, mail to open, laundry to do, hell, eat! Just anything! Knowing how lazy you must seem to everybody around you. How do you explain the feeling? That feeling of agonizing heaviness that makes you feel like you cannot physically move. Depression is not just sadness, guilt, emptiness, feeling of failure, fear, anxiety and on and on. Those aspects of depression to me are the ones that I have become used to. I have my head wrapped around those symptoms as much as one can. It is hard to remember at the time, but you know that it is depression. The nightmare for me is the physical toll that it takes on me.

You see, when I suffer a depression that is contained mostly to the emotion symptoms, a few of which I described above, I can still manage to complete some daily tasks. I am just very sad, anxious, guilty, etc while I drag myself through to completion. It is the deep, all consuming depressions that hijack my mind and my body that leave me feeling the most helpless.

images (29)Have you ever had a dream where your mind wakes up but your body is still in sleep paralysis? Those terrifying nightmares where you can’t move, scream or call for help? That sort of how a severe depression feels to me. It is difficult to explain, but every motion, every movement feels more difficult and exhausting than if I had the flu. Most people find it difficult to get up and at ’em when their body is overtaken with a flu, right? Well, that is the best way that  can describe how I feel when going through a severe depressive episode.

I can only write this now because I am feeling pretty good. I have come through and finally am in the care of a strong team of professionals. A great GP, Psychiatrist and counsellor that I have never had before. I am feeling happy today. Some days are better than others, but things seem to be looking up and I seem to feel better more often than not these days.

Now that my depression has been treated for some time, as difficult as it was, I can get up and go for a walk if I am feeling a little low, and it does make me feel better. Going for a walk and counting your blessings do not cure severe depression. Professional medical help to treat severe depression will eventually lead one to have the ability to get out and go for a walk.

If you are suffering a depression right now, my heart goes out to you. I understand that it is too hard to do a lot of things that many around you might think are simple tasks. I know that simple tasks are only simple to someone healthy, and that you are not ungrateful for the things in your life. You are ill and that is it. It is not your fault.

If you know someone who you believe may be suffering from depression and want to help, acceptance of where they are and education are a good first step.

Here are some links:

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Just Shag It

It is really late right now. I have been fighting really hard for a long time. Fighting to be positive, to grow through self improvement, meditation, healthy lifestyle, blah, blah, blah. I feel worn down right now. I should be in bed, I should have gone to the gym, why was I so tired to today? I thought I was feeling better lately. Ahhr!

I just don’t have the time nor am I in the mood for pretty words right now. The fact is I am tired of trying to feel good. Do you know what? Most of the time I feel like I am dragging my ass through quick sand and the moment  I get a medication that gives me a bit of energy I am suddenly becoming hypomanic. We better stop them or you’ll become manic. Well to hell with it! I say bring it on! Bring on the hypomania, while we’re at it, ramp it up to full blown mania! Anything to get me out of this slump.

I see the laundry sitting there, I want to do it but it is as though there are a thousand elephants holding me down. It is so frustrating to almost have normal energy but to be not quite there. It’s down right painful!

I will admit that I have been feeling better than I did when I was in a severe depression, but god help me I do not feel the way other people appear to feel. Why is everything such a chore for me? Showering, errands, cooking, getting dressed, and on and on. I want to have daily energy! Some days are okay but I am still pushing myself through. That makes the days that are not okay a darn chore. I have just started Wellbutrin and I hope to high heaven it boosts my mood and energy because I can’t fake it anymore. Not that I have been doing a great job of faking it anyway. Shag it all!

And that, folks, is how I am feeling right now. Raw. I am so sick of it!

 


 

 

Sick Of It

Misdiagnosis to Mania

When looking back at my younger self, I know now that I was suffering severe depression and social anxiety disorder (actually, I know now that I was suffering bipolar disorder, but until that time mania had not presented itself yet). I was always paranoid, though I could not identify what I was feeling at the time, but it was in the realm of psychotic. I was convinced that people, anybody, especially my “friends” only asked me to hang out so that they could laugh at me. They were pretending to like me but I was the joke in the room. They thought I didn’t know, but I was on to them. This is how I get when I am going through depression.

I experienced my first hypomanic/manic episode just after my first year of college. It didn’t last long. It did however last long enough for me to make the life changing decision to leave all my plans, my relationship, my life on a whim to move to the other side of the country by myself. Once there, the mania dissipated and the weight of my decision landed heavily on my shoulders. What had I done? Where was everybody? Where was I? I was alone and scared thousands of miles from home. Enter paranoid social anxiety closely followed by depression. My depression and anxiety worsened quickly and dramatically. I developed severe social anxiety to the point that I would not leave my apartment except to dodge to my classes and back. There were exactly two people that I trusted enough to communicate with, only sometimes, and as long as nobody else was around. I was sure that I was the world’s clown; they didn’t know I knew it, but I did. When around people, I would catch a glimpse, or a look from them and my stomach would sink and churn, the room would spin and everything sounded as a distant echo. I had to run, I had to get out! I was in a constant state of panic. I had no idea that this was something that a medical professional could help with, I thought that it was just how I was, but I walked into a doctor’s office and explained everything. The whole time I was thinking that the doctor must think I am crazy, but he didn’t even act surprised. That was where I heard about depression and social anxiety. I didn’t even know those were things, but I read the information I was given and was shocked that I was not alone! At that appointment I was misdiagnosed with depression and social anxiety disorder and was prescribed Paxil. This started a life altering mania.

Within weeks I did not recognize the world. It was beautiful. I had no idea what people were laughing at until now. It certainly wasn’t me, I was awesome. I got it. I got why people smile and laugh! I was confident, I was happy, it never occurred to me that someone would make fun of me. I finally got it! It was such a relief from an existence of darkness, guilt, shame and blindness. I was genuinely happy.

Then I started to really get it. I was understanding things about life and the universe that I believed nobody else got. I tried to explain the missing link between relativity and quantum, I stayed up for days working on assignments. They were genius! I was alive! Why did nobody see the magic that I was seeing? Was everybody blind to the universe around us? I kept trying to explain. People stared at me as though I was a wonder to behold. I was such an amazing, special person! They stared! They could tell that I was brilliant and they were amazed. I could see it in their faces. Oh, the stares…

I remember those stares a little differently now.

During this mania I began to experiment with mind altering substances. I found some likeminded people who understood the wonders of the universe, or at least tried. They were at least as blown away by them as I was. We ate many mushrooms to get closer to the truth, acid, weed, anything to enhance my already awakening genius. I was flying! I was on cloud nine, or at least I thought it was cloud nine. I had hit the north pole and flown head first into a manic episode. I wish I could say that this is where I found help. That I was admitted or that I came crashing down. This mania was one of the worse that I have suffered and I believe that it was sparked and sustained by the treatment for my misdiagnosed unipolar depression. I believe that the mania was so severe, and lasted so long because I was on the Paxil for so long. I eventually decided that I felt so god-like that I didn’t need medication anymore and I weaned myself off. I did okay for a while, but it was only a matter of time before the same psychotic depression hit again. This rollercoaster of antidepressant treatment to mania, to depression, to mania went on for years.

Oh the stories I will tell. I have had some of the most amazing experiences while manic, but have also made negative decisions that I will deal with for the rest of my life. I will leave off here for now, but be sure to come back for more manic stories. You don’t want to miss the one about my life with the mountain man….

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Wide Awake

As a child, I was free from the feeling of impending age and disappointment as I realize that life has happened for too long and I have fallen behind. Like all bright eyed youth I believed that as I studied hard, went through the right motions, followed all the right rules, that life would somehow fall into place. I would simply step onto destinies trail and life would unfold before me. I always had a sense that I would recognize each milestone by the successes and failures, where I had come, what I had accomplished. I had a preconceived idea of what each milestone would bring, how it would feel, that I would know I was where I was meant to be. However, bright eyed youth become wide eyed adults. Wide eyed with surprise that time had dragged them through life to reach each milestone without reminding them to stay awake for the ride. I am now of an age that my younger self would not recognize from her sense of time. I do not recognize this place. I still don’t know what I was supposed to do, and by now I should have been doing it for years. This is where I awoke. Jolted awake by one of life’s bumps, I nearly lost my grip. This is my wide-eyed moment. I find myself looking around and wondering why I am still waiting for everything to fall into place. The problem is, things are already in place and I was never asleep. I was just looking in the wrong directions.images (8)

Life is where you are, life is now. It always has been. Destiny did not pave your trail, you did. Life did not drag you blindly along, you were looking backward, or forward, or anywhere but now. Looking to the past, you miss the present as it unfolds. Your past will pave your way. Looking to the future will distract you from your present, the good, the lessons, life. On you go, paving a trail fervently trying to reach that future expectation, missing the present. But the present is still here. Appreciate the past, live in the present and expect a great future. We are all paving our own trails. Every moment offers a choice,  be present and make a conscious choice to fill it will gratitude, love, hope and happiness and watch your trail, charmed and alive, unfold before your eyes.

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Head In The Clouds

This post is the story of my first mania. It is a continuation of the post called “First Signs”

First Signs….I feel sad for my younger self. These were many years of turmoil both internally for me and externally in my home life. This life continued until just after I graduated from high school, then something unexpected happened. It was like an epiphany, a revelation! A freedom that I had never felt or experienced. It was what I know now to be my first Manic episode.

My first mania had a subtle onset. It lulled me into a feeling of something bigger. I come from an island off the east coast of Canada called Newfoundland. It is quite isolated and I had just returned back from a summer program in a university in Nova Scotia. I had left the island all on my own and survived!

I was 17. When I arrived at the university my depression became worse. I was alone amongst people that I had never met! I had no self confidence, I had no clue if anybody really wanted to have anything to do with me and in my state of social anxiety and paranoia I was pretty sure I was just a bother. I made it through though, finally, just like I trudge through all of life’s mud with my oversized boots. I always get to the other side. On the other side was my home on the island. So where does this mania come into play here? Well, like I said, it started with a whisper. A feeling of something bigger.

Even though I fell apart on my own, once I returned home I felt proud of having left. Proud of my experiences. I am sure that having left, I was suddenly struck by the reality of a larger world than I had ever known and I had barely left the east coast of Canada. My mind started to wander. I started to look into other places, other ideas. I began to enjoy smashing the shackles of time and the expectations that are attached to it. You know, around 8am we wake, breakfast, noon is lunch, it is a work day, or a weekend, it is getting late we should probably sleep. The shackles, the preconceptions about what we ought to do and when. I began to switch it up. I would stay at the 24hr coffee shop and eat my breakfast muffin at 3am, “What is time anyway?”, I wondered. “Nothing!” I loved being out when everyone was sleeping. It was like the world was a free place, where nobody was about to let you know what you ought to be doing. No one there to look at you strangely if you walked in the middle of the street instead of on a sidewalk. Those invisible lines that we dare not cross increasingly did not exist for me. I began to really think that I could do anything. Go anywhere. Right now. There are no rules or constraints, those are all illusions! I began to feel brilliant. I didn’t need to sleep, I could stay out musing philosophically in a moonlit graveyard until 4am then get back to the regular peoples’ world, the working world by 5am. Oh the things I understood. So why was I getting flack? Why were people looking at me strangely, questioning me? Don’t they see it? The freedom? That there is really nothing? I understood.

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During this time, I had been in a relationship for about 2 years. I suppose we were “in love”. I don’t know. High school sweethearts and all that. We were meant to return to the same university that I had just left. He would play hockey, I was on the volleyball team. I had already rented an apartment with some girls that  I knew there from the summer time. We had a plan, and it was good. It was stable. It was normal. It was in my best interest. It made sense. It made sense to a level headed, non-maniacal mind. At this point however, my mind had hit the north pole and I was struck with a wanderlust that sat me for hours in front of my computer researching places unknown, far away. How would I get there. What would make sense? I needed to go. University! That was my out!

University was the best plan. I researched and researched all the universities I could find. Both nationally and internationally. It was exhilarating, I was thinking quickly now, I had to. With only weeks left before the start of the school year I had to think quick. Ha! No problem there! There were a lot of questions about why I would just take off like that. What happened? I didn’t have an answer. But what about the boy? Right, a long distance relationship. Problem solved. For me, not for him. He broke up with me, he didn’t get it. It didn’t slow me down. My coach from university called me when he heard I wasn’t coming back. Not enough to stop me. My roommates called. It was too late. I was already gone. I just hadn’t left yet. Until I did….

I left for the other side of the country, leaving everybody I have ever known and loved behind, a decision that was made on a whim and changed my life’s direction forever. I will continue this story in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!

First Signs

The first signs that I can piece together are memories of myself as a child being repeatedly told that  I was born difficult. That I came out of the womb strong willed and opinionated (however an infant can be opinionated). In fact, on one of my first t-shirts my mother had imprinted the words “no way” to display to the world the disposition of her little terror. I was reminded of this repeatedly as a child. For example, my parents, avid church goers, reminded me time and again about how a gentleman approached me to say “hi” after the Sunday service and I, in all my charm and poise as an 11 month old hauled off and slapped him across the face. Of course this was used as an example of how I was born with a difficult and somewhat rotten personality throughout my childhood. I believed it. It hurt.

As young as I can remember I remember feeling a heaviness. A tiredness and sadness that was unrelenting. As young as the third grade I remember constantly fighting the urge to cry, particularly if an adult, like a teacher for example, would talk nicely to me. It was like I was holding in so much pain and sadness that I was always about to explode. Unfortunately, it usually ended up releasing in anger and rage. I was ashamed to cry.

This continued right through high school. I was a high achiever in academics, athletics and music and I remember dragging myself to every single practice, day of school, event, everything! How did I do it!?

There was a lot of fighting every day in my home all throughout my childhood and I believe that might have sparked the illness that I was predisposed to. The depression started early in childhood, and became deeper and deeper as I got older. It became so deep and confusing that I never actually believed that I had friends. I was a very popular teen in high school, but somehow I just never felt like my friends actually liked me. I know better now that I am sorted out, but how strange looking back on it. A paranoid depression where  I believed that those closest to me were inviting me out and wanting to be with me just to make fun of me. It was truly delusional, I know now. I feel sad for my younger self. These were many years of turmoil both internally for me and externally in my home life. This life continued until just after I graduated from high school, then something unexpected happened. It was like an epiphany, a revelation! A freedom that I had never felt or experienced. It was what I know now to be my first Manic episode.

More about that in my next story….