Pills to Poetry: The Burden of Non-Compliance

The conversation between my wife and I when I don’t want to comply with medication or sleep. A bipolar dilemma. A caregiver’s burden.

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~The Burden That No One Sees ~

“It’s late.” She’s barely awake, squinting.
“I’m not tired”, I tell her, and continue working.
“That’s the point”, she says under her breath.
“What’s the point?” I’m lost.
“With your condition…” she’s exhausted. I’m making it worse.
“Seriously I’m fine.” I insist.
“Take your meds.” She isn’t giving up.
“I’m not tired”, I say.
“You have a big day tomorrow.” She’s more patient than I deserve.
“I know. But I’m wide awake.” I continue working.
“That’s the problem.” Her face is pretty, even half asleep.
“What’s the problem?” I’m lost still.
“You’re getting manic.” Her tone is serious.
“Not manic. I’m just really busy. It’s a project…”
“It’s 2am”, she informs me.
“Okay. In thirty minutes I will.”
“No. Take them now.”
“Fuck. Okay. Fine.”
The bedroom door closes behind her as I pour a handful of perfect little pharmasanity shapes from the burnt orange, child-proof bottle. I choke them down with a large swig of beer. She hates when I do that but does not complain because at least I’m taking the goddamned medication.

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After a week or so of these types of conversations, she usually ends up putting me on a bedtime schedule with a tight ritual involving complying with meds. Because I love my wife and trust her, I often go with it. Well, okay, I put up a fight half the time, which occasionally puts her in the position to give me ultimatums. This is love. This is bipolar disorder. This is a bipolar marriage. And I still fucking hate taking pills.

For Better or For Worse…or For Bipolar

So you said “I do” to a sweet face with bipolar. Congratulations. By now you’ve probably seen a few mood swings, maybe a manic episode, and quite possibly some depression. Or maybe not. Your experience depends on many factors: how long you’ve been together, how long your significant other has been diagnosed, if he or she is medicated, your own stability, and to what severity his or her bipolar is.
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Here is a brief bipolar marriage primer.

I’m writing this today because it has been one of those days where my wife and I couldn’t seem to get along. From the second we woke up, until she just went to bed, we were at each other’s throats. Having been diagnosed 13 years, I know what has happened in my past relationships. It’s easy to be afraid or uncertain when loving someone with bipolar. Known for risky behavior, infidelity, mood swings, self harm, mania, and severe depression, it can be a lot to become involved with. Not to mention, divorce rates are significantly higher in bipolar marriages. So, after some meditation and reflecting, here are a few tips for living in a bipolar marriage, or in a relationship with a person with bipolar disorder:

  1. Let your bp spouse BREATHE! Seriously, the more we feel smothered, or like we can’t safely release, the tension only builds and we could explode or lash out.
  2. Remember that you LOVE your spouse. It is safe to say that your bipolar spouse is very passionate. This passion will come through in his/her worst moments. But you love this passion, because it also comes out in their best moments.
  3.  Be FIRM in medication arguments. I am constantly trying to get off of my meds. Constantly. And I act like a child over it. But my wife is made of stone on the issue. She has made it non-negotiable since we both know how topsy turvy our life will get if I quit meds.
  4. Ask her/him what she/he NEEDS. It’s likely they are angry because they need something. They will most likely not express this while yelling at you. The yelling is usually being triggered by something else that he or she may not even realize is the core problem. This is where you step back for a moment, take a breath, and ask her.him what they need to alleviate the situation. Odds are they’ll tell you. Their #10 will go down about 5 notches. Peace will ensue.
  5. Pay attention to TRIGGERS. These are whatever things set your spouse off. And I’m not saying cater to their every whim, but if you can do so reasonably, try to avoid said triggers.

Those are just quick, go-to points for coping. I write about relationships and marriage pretty often, so check out some other posts on how my wife and I keep holding on!

Positivity and Creativity for a Healthy Mind

I was determined to start this weekend better than the ones I’ve had in recent months. No demons allowed, only positive, healthy activities. Since photography is one of my long lost hobbies, I decided to tackle the project of my son’s 9-month photos. It was a beautiful day for the nearby park. My baby finally fit into the outfit his aunt gave him. My wife agreed to help me. I had no excuses.

I did have a period of irritability when a fellow amateur photographer made some rude remarks, setting me off. My wife had to stop me from fighting with her. Other than that, we had a really great day. And his photos turned out really great too!

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I practiced positive thinking, while utilizing creativity, in a healthy manner. I’m pleased to say that I am proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something to nurture my mind and abilities. I know it’s not always easy but I consider today a baby step.

 

Changes, Changes, Moods, & Changes

So much change going on right now. Change makes me moody. Change frustrates me. Change leaves me forgetful. Change makes things not boring. I hate change as much as I love it.

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My current whirlwind of change:

Hello Spring. That’s right, the good old change of season has bestowed us. My bipolar always switches gears when there is a seasonal change. I know I have been reacting to the warmer weather and having more mood swings than usual. I feel it and I know everyone around me feels it.

This past week I returned to work after a five month lay off.
I have a love/hate relationship with my job. Well, mostly with having a job, but yes, with my job too. As it turned out, much to my surprise, I was really good at doing the stay at home mom & housewife thing.

My wife began a new job after not working for three years. I’m really happy for her for landing a good job where her skills and degree can be utilized. It’s just so different because I’m used to her being home while I’m at work. And this was even before we had a child. While this is definitely a positive change,  the new busy lifestyle will take some getting used to. It doesn’t help that I’ve been rather moody with her lately.

I had to drop my baby off at the sitter’s for the first time. This has been really emotional for me. I especially enjoyed spending time with him over the winter, and I was so fortunate to be able to have this quality time during his first few months of life. People don’t prepare you for the emotions you go through as a parent. I miss him constantly.

My sleep schedule has been completely rearranged. Obviously having a baby in the house alters your sleep already, but having the baby with each of our work schedules, puts our mornings and nighttimes into a whole new category. I must go to bed so early now just so I can wake up early enough to take over baby duty since my wife leaves at 6:00a.m. I now take my nighttime pills around 8:30p.m. so I can be asleep no later than 9:30. I know it’s manageable, but it’s just different. And a bit challenging.

 

I don’t know exactly what steps I need to take in order to get everything under control. Maybe I can let it ride out and fall into routine. Maybe I should talk to my psychiatrist. I guess I’ll see how bad the mood swings get as time goes on. There is just so much going on that it’s hard to even focus on everything each day. Surely I’ll keep posted as I monitor my crazy self.

 

Sometimes I Get So Angry…

Oh my goodness I need to rant right now. I don’t know what it is but my wife is seriously pissing me off today. For no apparent reason. I’m trying to put this situation into perspective. She just started a brand new job last week after two years being home, while I just returned to work this week after a five month lay-off. We have a four month old baby. We’re super exhausted. And I know with the seasonal changes upon us, my bipolar tends to remind me of it’s existence. I don’t know what to do. Maybe I’m making excuses for our fighting. Maybe not. I hate feeling so angry. FRIENDS-FIGHTING

Bipolar Valentine Part 3: In Sickness and Health, Mania and Depression

I love you. I hate you. I want you. Don’t touch me. Marriage and bipolar. Is it a toxic combination? According to NAMI, statistically 90% of marriages with at least one bipolar spouse will end in divorce. That is a sobering number. You can’t deny that it’s a bit discouraging to those not yet married, and scary for those of us who are. So before we go any further, let’s ask- is there even a point? Absolutely.

b3265cde38e270325fd8828a36e074f0In lieu of Valentine’s Day, I’ve pieced together a three-part series on various aspects of bipolar disorder and love. This is meant to be informational with a shot of perspective, and a smooth aftertaste of personal connection. Please feel free to leave feedback or share your own experiences.

It is possible for people with bipolar disorder to endure successful long-term romantic relationships, and even marriage. There are many factors involved because every individual and every relationship is different. What works for one couple may not work for another, and vice versa.

Factors to consider:

One factor to consider is the time of diagnosis. While the symptoms are usually present for a period of time, we all know getting that official diagnosis makes a difference. It provides an answer and treatment options, as well as a name for what is going on. (I don’t like the term “label”). For several couples, the diagnosis comes years into their marriage. They receive the news together and unless they’ve already suspected BP, it is brand new information. What usually happens in these cases is a sense of relief, followed by frustration, and a new sense of responsibility. Changes must be made in the every day routine.

Other couples have it a little bit differently when the person was diagnosed prior to their union. In this instance, the non-bipolar partner entered the relationship knowing something was unique about it. In my last segment, Bipolar Valentine Part 2: Adventures in Dating, I discussed how to tell your new partner about your BP diagnosis, and about my own experience with my wife. Both types of couples face challenges.

“Following a diagnosis, the first and most dominant response from a spouse usually is sympathy, says David A. Karp, professor of sociology at Boston College and author of The Burden of Sympathy: How Families Cope with Mental Illness (Oxford University Press, 2002). “But further down the road, a spouse may experience emotions they don’t think they should be having—anger, frustration, and even hate.”

Indeed, caring for someone who has a mental illness can be more draining than caring for someone with cancer, says Dr. Karp. When a spouse does something for a mate with a physical illness, they are usually met with gratitude. People who have bipolar disorder, on the other hand, often deny the diagnosis, are unwilling to comply with medication, and—worst of all— treat one’s spouse like the enemy.”

Another factor to consider is if there are any children in the picture. Since bipolar disorder has ups and downs that can be unpredictable or inconsistent, it is especially vital to double up the top priorities to both the bipolar spouse’s needs as well as the children’s needs. Kids should never feel like the mood swings are their fault. And in reality, sometimes the hustle and bustle around the house is what triggers an episode. It is important to have a strong partnership with your spouse when you are not functioning at your best so the kiddos will have stability.

How can we make it for the long haul?

I give my wife a splintering headache every single time I go hypomanic or full blown manic. I lie about my meds. I drink. I stay out all night. I argue with her. I hate sleep. I become very self-involved. And I no doubt make her feel like shit. When I get depressed, she can’t get me out of bed. I ignore my responsibilities and don’t even care. I know she knows when my patterns will start. I know she goes through hell. But…we make it. We get through it and carry on. Have we come close to ending it all? Oh hell yeah we have. But chose to work really hard instead. Here are a few tips that really work.

I swear by education. Read about bipolar disorder and have your spouse do the same. One book I recommend is Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder, by Julie Fast.

Finding the right doctor, usually a psychiatrist, is imperative. Make sure your partner joins you so he/she can become acquainted with your doctor in case of any future emergencies. A good doctor is someone who listens to you, addresses your concerns, and explains the recommended course of treatment. Both of you having a good relationship with your doctor is important for your relationship with your spouse.

Other factors in your treatment include the right med cocktail, and any support groups you join. It is mandatory to get your partner on board with all of it. This is one thing that has held my marriage together these last 7 years. My wife is my medication manager and during my rough times, she sorts and distributes it for me. Even when I’m able to administer it to myself, she is my daily reminder of when I’m supposed to take it. Without her, I know I’d forget or choose to not take my pills. Without the pills, I’d be a hot freaking mess! She also encourages me to attend my biweekly support group.

One of the absolute most important things in a bipolar marriage is having rules. Yes, rules suck. But in this case, rules are the glue holding the package together. Establish grounds for when to call the doctor, to disclose suicidal thoughts, to have your partner notify you of red flags, when to go to the hospital, to communicate your triggers, and a commonly broken rule- to always take your medication! In my house, my wife has given me the medication ultimatum that if I refuse to take it, she will pack up herself and our son, and go stay somewhere else. That thought kills me. So I stay motivated to comply.

My last biggie is communication. More specifically, speaking the language of bipolar. Make it clear what “highs” and “lows” are and what things you might verbalize differently in each of these states. This way there is no cause for alarm if you are transitioning moods.

Enough of the technical stuff, where’s the love?

d55dc7e5bb39d7d2ed43d96fe7dd2663I can’t say this enough- do not make your bipolar the center of your relationship! For any marriage, with or without mental illness, it is important to nurture the relationship in order for it to grow. It’s just like any living thing. If you stop feeding it, it wilts and dies. The bipolar is just a part of it. Your relationship consists of many other parts. Give these a try:

  • Re-examine your core values and what brought you two together in the first place.
  • Carve out some time in your busy lives for a date night.
  • Have passionate sex.
  • Laugh together.
  • Go on a road trip.
  • Renew your vows.
  • Say “I love you” often.

If you haven’t already, check out the first two parts of this series, Bipolar Valentine Part 1: Is It Love or Just Bipolar?  and Bipolar Valentine Part 2: Adventures in Dating.

Bipolar Valentine Part 2: Adventures in Dating

You have mastered the art of first impressions. It’s easy to reel them in and land the date. As long as what’s underneath doesn’t creep it’s way to the surface, that is. How does a person with bipolar disorder survive the dating world? My answer: mindfully.

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In lieu of Valentine’s Day, I’ve pieced together a three-part series on various aspects of bipolar disorder and love. This is meant to be informational with a shot of perspective, and a smooth aftertaste of personal connection. Please feel free to leave feedback or share your own experiences.

The noise in your head is louder than the conversation between you and your date, but you somehow manage to keep your composure. Your date is beyond attractive. You still cannot believe you are here. Your head is getting louder and you can’t feel your tongue. Now this could sound like any first date jitters, but the difference between jitters and what you are experiencing is the fact that any chance of a future with you and this person, in reality, includes you, this attractive person, and your bipolar. The three of you. Admittedly, knowing this can be discouraging.

Dating in itself is hard. It is full of anxiety and expectations. Dating when you have a mental disorder creates it’s own set of difficulties because the disorder isn’t typically visible to the naked eye. Mood disorders such as bipolar disorder or depression, or even anxiety disorders don’t necessarily have symptoms all the time. Mood swings and triggers induce symptoms that result in behavioral changes. Understandably, this can be a huge pain in the ass when in the market for a mate.

So, what makes for smooth dating?

First and foremost, make sure you are ready to date. I’m not saying all of your ducks need to be in a row. (I mean really, who’s are?) I’m referring to having your mental health in check. Are you stable? Have you been consistent with your medication? Are you depressed? Manic? Having thoughts of harming yourself? You know the rest. It is so very important to be in a healthy place before bringing someone new into your life. If you are not really ready, then it’s not only unfair to that person, but it’s unfair to yourself. Besides, dating is fun and the point is to enjoy one another. You can’t do that if you are sick.

Another key to dating is to know yourself. Know where you stand on issues such as marriage and children. Odds are they will come up at some point and it’s no secret that bipolar disorder can complicate these things. But please know bipolar is not poison to domesticity! (I can tell you first-hand.)

When do you spill the beans?

No doubt this is the scariest part. The part of dating when you have to tell your partner about the thing that you try to not let define you. The thing that can turn you from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde in a matter of minutes. The thing that allows you to hear colors and taste sounds. The thing called bipolar disorder.

It’s tricky because it is possible to reveal your bipolarity too soon, and it is also possible to reveal it too late. The best time to bring it up is as the relationship has reached a level of intimacy where you are ready to be exclusive and make a commitment to one another. When you are entering a deeper trust mode.

When talking about bipolar, be mindful that the person you are talking to may not have had previous experience with it, at the same time they may have had a bad experience with it in the past. This is also a highly stigmatized disorder. Be delicate, but make it clear that what you are about to talk about is important and personal. Gauge the conversation as you go, and try not to react to their reaction if it is not what you expected. Go ahead and tell them about your treatment regime and your feelings with having the diagnosis. Try not to use a ton of technical medical terms so it’s a little less intimidating, and easily comprehensible.

d9d34d2303b499e42364119e0aef7cacBack in 2006, when my wife and I were just dating, I remember being pretty nervous about telling her my diagnosis of bipolar type 1. I really liked that girl a lot and was so scared she would think I was defective or crazy or something. I waited until we had been dating about a month. At this point we had grown exceptionally close and developed intimacy. We went on a camping trip and I basically blurted it out at the campfire. She didn’t freak out or judge me. I learned that she had previous experience with her mother being bipolar. Her life growing up with an untreated bipolar mother was mostly dysfunctional, so she has seen the ugly side of the disorder. Of course because of this I thought she would run, but instead she was very knowledgeable and chose to give me a shot. It’s about learning to trust one another and take chances.

What about the dreaded psych hospital?

So you and your new mate have been dating for a handful of months and all is peachy. And then it happens. The dreaded episode. It could be depression or mania- doesn’t matter, either is shattering. And you find yourself in a psychiatric hospital. Perhaps you’ve been there before or maybe it’s your first time. Either way, on top of regaining stability and utilizing treatment, you are going mad over the fact that you have to tell the new girl/boyfriend that their partner is in the looney bin. What is the best way to handle this situation?

Well, for starters, make sure you keep your partner in the loop prior to any hospitalizations. Granted, that may be awkward since it’s still in the beginning stages, but it may help to bring up treatment options and discuss the possibility of being admitted into the hospital for a medication adjustment.

I was first hospitalized when I was 18. At that time I was dating a wonderful girl who treated me well. While we weren’t that serious yet, after a couple of months I could see it going somewhere. Maybe it’s because I was young, or because I was freshly diagnosed, I never told her about my bipolar disorder. I think she got used to my moodiness so when I didn’t call her for a few days, she wasn’t concerned. I didn’t tell her I was in the hospital. I was too ashamed and didn’t want her to see me like that. When I didn’t call her for even longer, she figured that I just didn’t want to see her anymore. When I was finally discharged, I assumed she didn’t want to see me so I didn’t call her. For years I regretted not contacting her and I wondered what could have been. (Side note: We did reacquaint years later and she wished I’d have talked to her about what was going on with me. We have since drifted, but I was able to gain closure. And I have since been happily married to my wife.)

Try these suggestions for dating done right:

If you see things going in the positive direction with your new partner, encourage them to educate themselves a little bit on bipolar disorder. There are a lot of good books and websites available. This could make it a little less overwhelming for them and establish a connection between the two of you. It also makes it easier when you do open up about what you are experiencing.

Be honest about what you need. For instance if you are feeling depressed, maybe you don’t need someone to try to cheer you up. Maybe quiet meditation serves a better function. Make it clear what is helpful and what isn’t.

Share your positive qualities. We all know having bipolar also comes with some intriguing qualities as well. We’re vibrant, creative, passionate, and unique!

b08191d09ac31c91ed1f84e56576f8eeCan it become more?

So you really dig this person with whom you’ve been canoodling and you’re starting to feel the urge to utter the little ‘ol “L” word. Good for you! Of course there is so much running through your head. It’s no secret that relationships with a bipolar partner tend to not fare well. Statically 90% of bipolar marriages end in divorce. That’s depressing in itself. Don’t let the statistics scare you. It is possible to take it to the next level. Just check in with yourself often and put forth the effort to maintain stability.

I will be focusing on marriage and long-term relationships in the third and final segment, Bipolar Valentine Part 3: In Sickness and Health, Mania and Depression. And if you haven’t already, check out my previous segment Bipolar Valentine Part 1: Is It Love or Just Bipolar?

Bipolar Valentine Part 1: Is It Love or Just Bipolar?

You feel sexy. You feel on top of the world. Your heart has never been more full. You’ve never been so turned on. You want attention- and you’re getting it. It’s euphoric. It’s definitely love…or is it?

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In lieu of Valentine’s Day, I’ve pieced together a three-part series on various aspects of bipolar disorder and love. This is meant to be informational with a shot of perspective, and a smooth aftertaste of personal connection. Please feel free to leave feedback or share your own experiences.

Well, is it love? Or is it bipolar?

Picture that you just met someone you are insanely attracted to. You notice every single detail about their perfectly angled face, the tiny dimple on the left side near their mouth, and their adorable laugh. You are dizzy with intoxication by the very scent of this perfect human specimen. Upon this meeting, you are charming, so very charming. And you are drunk on your own sex appeal. You are suddenly very aware of your flesh. You take notice of every detail of the night air, senses beyond heightened, and you are convinced that that very moment was created especially for you. You and this person with whom you share a heavy fondness. Not only are you practicing your most seductive moves, you desire to make love all night long, and release yourself into the throes of passion. Sighhhhhh. Sounds like a scene straight from a romance novel. Could it be love? Perhaps. But in someone with bipolar disorder, these feelings could be symptoms of hypomania or mania. Common signs of mania include feeling unusually high and optimistic (or irritable), grandiose ideas, racing thoughts, impulsiveness, impaired judgment, little need for sleep, unrealistic beliefs, delusions, acting recklessly without consequence, feelings of euphoria, and increased sex drive, also known as hypersexuality.

“When you’re in a hypomanic or manic state, you’re also more likely to feel you’re in love,” says Elizabeth Haase, MD, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and a member Human Sexuality Committee of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry. “You may then act on that feeling when making major long-term life decisions, not understanding your state had something to do with what you were feeling.”

For someone enduring a manic or hypomanic episode, sex is often the main course in a banquet of other amplified feelings and behavior. Hypersexuality is when someone experiencing bipolar hypomania or mania has an increased libido or is excessively interested or involved in sexual activity. The thing is, a high sex drive isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, most of us would think that is quite wonderful! It becomes problematic when there is no regard for consequences that could become of the sexual activity. This can include extramarital affairs or cheating on your girl or boyfriend. Sexually transmitted diseases are a tremendous concern as well, especially if someone is sleeping with multiple partners. Regret and shame are often the result of impulsive sexual activity. Hypersexuality can also trigger a sex addiction in some people. And don’t forget about the interpreted emotional connection people tend to believe they are feeling with their sex partner. The bitter aftermath of manic sexual relationships typically end in heartbreak, one side or the other.

29d9c9b8a66dc439b71fa7773c55575cI do recall experiencing a pretty wild manic episode in my early twenties where I felt like I was on fire. I was feeling hot, looking good, and my moves were working for me. (I was also delusional, had extreme grandiose ideas, drank too much, did too much cocaine, and felt on top of the world.) I was very in tune with my sexual side and ended up dating four girls at the same time! In my mind I was a sex goddess. Who needs sleep when you can do other things all night long? Of course I also felt I had an emotional connection with each of them. Everything was intense and special. That is until I started to come out of my mania. I first had a breakdown, then like most manic episodes, I had a huge mess to clean up. Needless to say, people got hurt and I was confused, emotionally.

So, how do you know the difference?

It is important to know what triggers your episodes. Examine all other areas of your life. If any of the symptoms of manic or even depressed episodes seem to describe your life, then something is off balanced. If you are on medication, make sure you are taking them as prescribed. If you take them as you are supposed to and are still experiencing manic symptoms, then it is imperative to talk to your doctor for an adjustment. And if you are comfortable with the path you are leading, regardless of how reckless, I urge you to use protection, for reasons I don’t need to explain.

If you are in the clear and pretty balanced, but still have feelings of intense passion and attraction to a certain special someone, then it sounds like you have a hot, steamy case of romance! If done right, both lust and love are very rewarding. Those intense feelings are consistent with the beginning stages of romantic relationships.

ecee8e6b34c6c1f06bd39cb5ea18f657I can’t say it enough, it is so healthy to know yourself and your bipolar patterns. New love is on the list of common potential triggers. There are so many emotions and changes that even non-bipolar folks act like fools when they are smitten by a beautiful new face. Also, don’t ever be discouraged because you have bipolar disorder. There are many bipolar people in successful relationships. I will be exploring bipolar dating in my next segment, Bipolar Valentine Part 2: Adventures in Dating.

New Year, New Baby, Creative Non-Resolution

Big changes for the new year over on my end. First- A NEW BABY! Yes, our little bundle of baby boy was born December 17th. Another change for me right now is my lack of work. I have been laid off for the winter season, left to collect unemployment benefits. What’s more, I seem to have lost my creative edge and/or motivation to write- poetry or blogwise. Perhaps my priorities have just been in other directions. Or the lack of sleep is getting to me. Whatever the reason, I hope it passes quickly. I try to avoid blogging hiatuses such as this last one.

But anyway, yes the wonderful new element in my life is my precious, perfect baby boy! Since he is our first baby, my wife and I have been absorbing so much as new moms. Being a parent truly makes you examine your life, and everything that’s real. Priorities change so much, and you suddenly no longer tolerate things such as other people’s drama. The important things in life are if my son is hungry, how to soothe him when he cries, and what’s the best way to hold him to make him feel comfortable. I am feeling emotions like I’ve never felt before. A whole new kind of love.

It has been both beneficial and frustrating not going to work this past month. Of course with the baby, the lay off couldn’t have come at a better time. It gives me the advantage that many new parents don’t get, and that is to be a part of my newborn’s every day life, all day, for a few months. For that, I am grateful and count the blessing. But of course as a person with bipolar, not having my routine for a lengthy period of time can be problematic. Even with the baby and all the visitors we’ve had, I have found myself getting bored. Getting restless. I like going to the office. My schedule keeps me on track, and my disorder in check. When I don’t have structure, I tend to be more subject to triggers. So far I’m doing what I can to tend to the baby, the house (I clean it daily), coordinating guests, and whatever small projects I can find. The holidays were a nice distraction, even though we just stayed in and had a relaxing Christmas with our little guy.

I did not make a resolution this year. And I don’t intend to. I am, however, hoping that this creativity slump passes soon and I spew out some poetry or something. I realize I haven’t contributed anything to this blog in over a month. Therefore -in a non-resolution way- I intend to pick up on my slack. I aim to become motivated. I have no doubt that this little angel will provide me with new levels of inspiration. So, you’ll be hearing more from me soon.

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Suicidal Ideation is A Manageable Symptom

Some of us experience it, some of us don’t. It takes over your mind and consumes you. Suicidal ideation doesn’t necessarily mean you will kill yourself. Or that you really want to. It means you are preoccupied with the thought. These thoughts drag you to a very dark place, focusing on, or even obsessing over the notion to end your own life. People with these ideations often lack the desire to fully commit suicide. In fact, many people in this position would rather not discuss it. Ideations include methods, plans, notes, the aftermath, etc. Is this morbid? Does this make someone a sick person? No. Suicidal ideation is a symptom of bipolar disorder. I am one of those people who are affected by this symptom. For me, it flares up at certain times, and goes away at other times. While some may take great comfort in their dark thoughts, it makes me more negative and depressed. I do a lot of work on myself if I start getting like that, and I practice therapeutic techniques to clear my mind.

What triggers my suicidal ideation? A key trigger is whenever someone I know dies intentionally, a.k.a. suicide, or from a preventable cause, such as an overdose. It triggers me even further when the deceased is around my age. I begin to take mental notes, as if I’m learning a lesson from these people who passed before me. What did he overdose on? How did he do it? Why her? Why not me? Now these thoughts manifest into full on imaginative scenarios, thus romanticizing the notion of death altogether. I find myself sitting at funerals, in complete awe of the entire procession. I philosophize every aspect of it. From the excessive sobber, to the take-charge family member, to the hugger, to those apprehensive to see the casket, to the hospitable funeral director, and all the awkward others who seem to follow suit along with everybody else.

Where am I going with any of this? Well I attended a funeral yesterday for a young family member of my wife, who indeed took his own life. By young, I mean a day younger than me. An unthinkable tragedy, the pain he was going through must have been indescribable. I watched as family members mourned, their hearts broken, questions unanswered. And of course while I was beyond saddened for my wife and my dear in-laws, I started to feel the sprouting little buds in my mind. I pushed it away, and have been doing my damnedest to prevent anything from growing. It’s important to know your triggers, and catch them early in development. Using positive self talk can help as well.

The focus is to celebrate life. We celebrate those who have passed before us, those who are here with us, and those who will be joining us soon. (Our baby is due next month! Yay!) I know this is a hard topic to chew, but I really felt it was important because surely there are others with this symptom as well.

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Maybe Baby? Should I Consider a Bipolar Pregnancy?

I need some input on this one. My wife and I have been seriously discussing the notion of having my bipolar highness carry our second child. Yes, I’m aware this sounds presumptuous, considering our first won’t even be here until December, but it is well known that a great deal of preparation must go into a bipolar pregnancy. Because we are getting older, and because we want our brood to grow up close in age, it’s wise to consider all factors ahead of time. Not to mention that we are indeed, a lesbian couple with limited resources (ahem, readily available man ingredients), and the mere truth that there is a higher percentage of difficulty in getting pregnant via IUI or IVF. So, we are doing our research and talking openly. The process of fertilization aside, what we both feel most concerning is my bipolar disorder. This is the weighing factor. She supports me if I decide I want to do it, but she is wise to be cautious.  I’m scared and unsure, as well as confident I could do it if I really wanted. I go back and forth on the subject all the time. So I’ve decided to weigh it out here. Help me pick apart my bipolar pregnancy anxieties.
 
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I would have to come off of or significantly reduce my medications during pre-pregnancy.
As we learned with this current pregnancy, when going through intrauterine insemination (IUI), the months leading up to the actual insemination must be treated as carefully as if you were already pregnant. This is because the body is going through preparations, which may include fertility drugs, in order to promote healthy ovulation. What does this mean for the bipolar end? Well, it means weaning off of medications that could potentially be dangerous for a developing fetus. Mood stabilizers such as Lithium, or anti-convulsants, are known to cause severe birth defects. Other classes of medications include antipsychotics, which should be avoided due to lack of research, and tranquilizers or sedatives, which should be avoided, especially in the first trimester, also due to increased risk of congenital malformations.  Now, I know some researchers say certain things are alright to be on in low doses, but you have to remember it’s a timely and costly venture for us gay chicks to get knocked up. Why in the world would I dare to risk anything potentially hazardous to unborn baby? Why would anyone, really?
 
I would have to remain off of meds for several months during pregnancy.
Okay, you already know why I’d have to come off of medication. Common sense says I’d have to stay off for the duration of the 38-40 weeks of carrying the baby. And unless I decide not to breastfeed, I will have to remain off during the nursing months as well. My head spins a little further and I imagine life not on meds… To begin, what’s different already is that we’d have a little one around. I’d have to maintain parenting an almost two-year old, while my hormones are changing in ways I cannot even imagine, all while being off of the medication I rely on for stability. I would have to try not to destroy my marriage, become hopelessly depressed, fly away on a manic spree, or worse yet- develop psychosis. I’m not really sure what they do with a pregnant person in the mental hospital when you can’t consume the drugs. I can, however, imagine the manic version of nesting and it sounds quite colorful indeed!    
 
It’s scary to not be in control of potentially changing moods under the influence of hormonal changes.
The last thing I would want to do is jeopardize my family. My beautiful wife will be giving birth to our son in just two short months, and already I love him more than I imagined I ever could. We certainly want to add on to our family and I consider my role in doing just that. I think about what I contribute now. I work a steady job, I do my share to keep the house clean and put together, I take care of our many loving pets, and I try my best to be a good wife. I’m able to play these roles because I am on a strict medication regimen, I am in touch with my triggers, my body, and my mind. Have I had major episodes that were beyond my control? Absolutely. And yes, they impaired each of these roles significantly. Now, if I were carrying a baby, off of medication, I wonder how I would be affected by the many hormonal changes that come along with pregnancy. I would need to have prepared some coping techniques for when things seem out of control. Part of my preparation would be to have an outlet, where I could put my energy in the case of a trigger, to help steer me back on track. Maintaining some area of control would be imperative, not only for me, but for the growing baby, and my family as well. 
 
The heart-wrenching feeling that I could be passing my bipolar to my baby. And knowing it.
While no exact gene can be determined as of yet, researchers have found that a child with a parent diagnosed with bipolar disorder, can be somewhere around 50% more likely to also have bipolar disorder or some other psychiatric illness. Whoa. Ok let’s be real for a minute. No parent would ever want their child to have to suffer from any type of illness, medical or psychiatric. So part of me feels like I would knowingly be putting this baby at risk for developing bipolar. Is that irrational? (Is it bad that I can’t tell if it’s irrational?) Maybe my anxieties are taking a toll, but I want to be a good mother. And I know that starts at pre-conception. That baby would have an increased risk of developing bipolar growing in me, as opposed to a safer route, and having my wife carry all of our babies. (Which I’m totally okay with too- she is ADORABLE pregnant!) 
 
Postpartum instability and re-entering the drug sphere.
Say I do manage to get through pregnancy and childbirth, med-free, family still likes me, etc. Okay, now the hormones take a whole new shift postpartum, often causing changes in mood. Some women fall into a depression, others become incessantly irritable or have crying spells. I may or may not have these issues, but it’s good to be aware of the flood of hormones. Now, judging from my own illness, my past, what has and hasn’t worked for me, I will be going back on medication. The thoughts in my mind, however, include What if my old meds don’t work for me anymore? Do I have to start over? I don’t want to go through trial and error while caring for a newborn, Is it okay to not breast feed?  I guess there are probably a million more things that will take over my brain if I did go through the process, but each of these are important questions to be answered. 
 
In a way, it is selfish of me to carry a child.
Perhaps I’m over thinking, but on one hand, I look at hetero couples, with a man and a woman, and I think there is only one womb, only one of them can carry a baby. If the woman in that relationship has bipolar disorder, then do they have a bigger dilemma than us? Would it be selfish of me to want to carry a child when my relationship has another perfectly good womb in which plant a seed? This is one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever been faced with. And while I don’t need to know today, I eventually need to make my decision. My wife is very understanding either way, and is in no way pressuring me, which I truly appreciate. She is, also, more than happy to carry again. Part of my brain looks at the cautions and repercussions involved with me taking on pregnancy. Then, a teensy part of my mixed up brain realizes that other bipolar moms have accomplished this remarkable task and came out of it better than ever.
 
If anyone has gone through this or if you have any any advice, thoughts, anything- I’d really like some input! 
 

Shamelessly Venting My Spinning Head

Hi everyone. Back to the daily grind, post-Labor Day. A lot has been going on with me lately. For starters, I’m in the process of making a huge decision about my future.  Specifically- grad school. Yikes. My poor mind is being swayed in so many directions with this. The thing is, my undergrad is in mental health, but I’m considering a Masters in Business. Reasons? Simple. While I have an over abundance of education in psychology/mental health, I have never worked in that field. I do, however, have a great deal of experience in business administration, management, and marketing. I’m trying to logically put my (apparent?) talents where they ought to be. This is hard and I’m coming down with an unpleasant case of freak out. AKA anxiety. It’s not just the decision that brings on anxious thinking, but it’s all the paperwork, financial aid, the required GMAT test, and commuting in the snow to a new university.

My anxiety about school isn’t the only thing that’s giving me heart palpitations. As you know, my wife and I have our first baby arriving in three months. While I seem to be doing (surprisingly!) alright with the notion of having a brand new baby to take care of, I’m getting really anxious over the preparation. We are throwing our own baby shower and there is a ton of work involved that we’ve taken on ourselves. Even my wife confessed to me that she is having nightmares about it going awry! While I keep telling myself that it will fall into place, I can’t help but spaz out in my head. Is it a good time to mention that we haven’t started the nursery? We know what we are doing with it, but the plan needs to be executed now. I’m also stressed that we won’t receive the essential items on the baby registry. I’m sick over all of it!

Okay this is beginning to sound like a vent session. I apologize. My next topic to bitch about is the weight I have gained. It’s like since she’s been pregnant, I have expanded as well. It’s giving me more anxiety, especially since I have to find time to work out and I have to say no to the food her preggo self is always trying to feed me. I need to watch that my medications don’t cause me to keep the weight on, since a couple of them have weight gain as a side effect. I hate that my clothes no longer fit and that my appetite is the size of a horse.

I should probably write something constructive after force-feeding my panic button to you. I could probably write how I recommend practicing deep breathing techniques, or saying positive affirmations. Well, as much as I do encourage you to utilize these tools, among others, I am not in the place, mentally, to take my own advice. Shame on me for skipping my Bipolar support group meeting last night, but I had such a migraine and my irritability wouldn’t have fared well for my fellow group members. Perhaps I’ll attend the next one. Perhaps my anxiety will be gone by then. Perhaps I’ll have answers and can calm the fuck down a little bit.

I know millions of people go to graduate school, and billions of people have babies. I know most everyone has gained unwelcome weight at one point. But have these people done it all at once? How about while living with Bipolar Disorder? Life is hard and it’s harder when you have to work harder to locate the coping mechanisms in your brain. It’s important to be mindful of potential Bipolar triggers during periods of high stress. That’s what I’m dealing with. All while going to work, cleaning the house, and attempting to be a good wife.

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Hypomanic Denial? Or Do I Need A Clue?

It’s possible that I’m falling ahead of myself and stumbling, scraping my own dumb forehead in the process. My wife feels my recent behaviors have triggered hypomania, resulting in her fear of full blown mania. Is she correct? I don’t know, really. You could say it all started when I self-righteously decided to participate in alcohol related activities after a five year drinking hiatus. Not one drop of liquid intoxication for just over five years. Until now. About two months ago I had a drink, socially, with friends. It filled me with warm nostalgia, and a license to cut loose. I don’t know if this has anything to do with my changed view on life, or my desire to “live it up” before the baby gets here, but I know that I feel good. I have been a lot more social with my group of friends as well. Admittedly, I have gone out multiple nights in a row, on a few occasions. I also made the mistake of staying out until 5am. More than once. Okay, not my finest moments… But I want to take up every opportunity to have fun before we will be consumed with diapers and midnight feedings. I don’t think this constitutes as hypo anything. I usually listen to my wife’s observations and concerns, but I don’t feel as energetic as she says I am. I don’t see the downward spiral she sees. I see myself living up my last child-less summer. Am I selfish? Am I in denial?

I look at some main triggers of hypomania, and they include: drinking alcohol or using mind-altering drugs, taking a trip, major change or life event, over-stimulation and excitement, overall restlessness or boredom, excessive noise or partying. Examining these triggers makes me wonder if my wife has a point. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t describe my life as of lately. I just returned from a trip, I’m attending two music concerts tomorrow, I’ve been drinking with my friends, and to top it off, I have an out of town friend, whom I met online, coming to meet me this weekend for the first time. I’ve completely screwed up my friendship with my best friend, and I allowed my irresponsibility get the best of me two days ago, as I hurt my wife’s feelings in unexplainable ways. I suppose I’m moving fast and fucking up, but I feel fine, I don’t feel manic!

Mania is what I know. The racing thoughts, pressured speech, the euphoria, the hyper-sexuality, the larger than life ideals and philosophies, the grandiosity, delusions, and obsessions. This is not mania. This is living. Isn’t it? Am I naive to my own existence?    

Well Hello There, Anxiety!

I welcomed this day wearing a smothering jacket of anxiety, accessorized with a shiny ball of nerves. It’s like I suddenly have so much on my mind that I am experiencing physiological reactions that include chest tightness and shallow breathing, on top of my severe distractability and a racing mind. A few days ago I mentioned that my wife and I are going on a road trip later this week. Despite my list of travel tips, (https://nectarmadness.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/travel-tips-for-bipolar-disorder/) I still feel unprepared. And I don’t think it’s so much that I’m unprepared for the trip itself- I mean I refilled my Lithium, I did a load of laundry, and I have directions. But it’s more an overwhelming feeling of tying up loose ends before we leave. My list of unimportant things that are sickening me with importance. Yeah those. For instance I recently got a brand new camera. (Little known fact: photography was one of my biggest hobbies, prior to a depression-induced hiatus that lasted for 10 years.) Now, I’ve been thrilled about releasing the ol’ shutterbug and cranking out something to put me back on the map. The thing is, I have no idea how to turn the fucking thing on! Sure there’s a DVD, there’s a booklet and online support. I get it. I haven’t had time to even charge up the battery until last night. I don’t have five minutes to dedicate to learning how this thing works and I am expected to bring it with me on the trip where I will be greeted by my family full of photographers. My first shoot back is going to be in the scenic oasis of beautiful, lush Kentucky. It’s stressing me the fuck out.

While I might sound crazy, we have to remember that I’m already getting triggered by the mere fact I’m going on a trip. Add in the overwhelming surplus of people who are also going on the trip. These people are family members who we don’t see very often, which is as unnerving as it is exciting. I’m also a little anxious about announcing our pregnancy to the cousins we don’t see but every handful of years. While I try to not let things like stereotyping and closed-mindedness enter my aura, I do have some family members who swing a little more conservatively, so I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t affect me a little.

While I’m on my anxiety tangent (I’d be shocked if anyone actually reads this entry!), I’m also coming off a recent high that I experienced over the weekend. And that is a surprise birthday party thrown for me by my amazing friends. My birthday is on the 7th and since I won’t be home, they threw it for me this past Sunday. I’m not one to really like surprises, but I managed to keep it together absolutely fine. I guess the biggest aftermath of the party I’m busy contemplating is the fact so many people showed up! I really would’ve never thought so many people really like me! I’m as gracious as I am overwhelmed. I do think my behavior got a little out of control later that night, and I am feeling anxious, today, about the level of intoxication I managed to get to. I feel guilty and uncomfortable about that part. Impulse control isn’t my strongest trait. Anyway, I’ll move past it. The party was such a wonderful surprise that I’m still glowing from it!

Now, with so much buzzing around inside my head, what I need to do is continue to work on my to-do list, pack up all that I’m bringing, and straight up get my shit together already! I’m convinced once we’re on the road I will calm down by at least 8 notches. If I ever get there.

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Diamond In The Rough, A Poem

One of the toughest challenges for those with mental illness is maintaining relationships. It takes extra effort and compassion. I am lucky to be married to a strong, amazing woman. This poem is in tribute to that part of my marriage.

Diamond In The Rough

Driving alone, I love the dark.

I take the freeway to your heart.

Breathe my dust into your lungs,

A gentle scratch and we are done.

My blood is bitter; you taste sweet.

You watched me shatter on the street.

Was that in vain?

Am I still stable?

Think it’s time to cut my cable.

A glittered sundown with a barren tomorrow,

I fill your being with elated sorrow.

Did you yell?

Or cry it out?

Polluted words flee my mouth.

You inhale this whirlwind even still,

Through hazy hearts, I feel your will.

Am I the diamond in your rough?

Let me know when it’s enough.

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