Thoughts On New Bipolar Drama, ‘Black Box’

Tonight I finally had a date with my DVR and the pilot episode of the new ABC series, ‘Black Box’.

The show is about Dr. Catherine Black, a neuroscientist who works at The Center for Neurological Research and Treatment. This world famous doctor has bipolar disorder. She hides it from some, while others can’t escape from it.

Catherine, played by Kelly Reilly, has a non-compliance issue with taking her meds, which the show made prevalent when she decided to come off of them. Her mania was triggered, and she experienced symptoms such as delusions of grandeur, hypersexuality, hallucinations, increased energy, rapid speech, and grandiosity. She ended up hurting her boyfriend/(sort of fiance), and she almost messed things up at work. The show features Vanessa Redgrave as her psychiatrist, and shows them meeting often to discuss Catherine’s mental state and returning her to stability.

My Thoughts
I really liked it! I had been obsessing about watching it for weeks before it premiered. So far, I can absolutely relate to Catherine, in terms of bipolar, and I can even say I idolized her a little bit. Yes, her actions made me think about my own non-compliance issues and I suddenly felt a desire to cut the drugs and free myself into a colorful mania of my own. I may or may not have made a comment about this, and my wife, who was watching it with me, gave me one of her famous “I don’t think so” looks. We have a deal that if I can’t stay on meds, she (and the baby) can’t stay with me. Okay, well that’s more of an ultimatum than a deal, but for the most part it works.

Anyway, I think that bipolar disorder was represented very well (except maybe the rapidness of the episode onset), and Dr. Catherine Black’s character was portrayed beautifully. I, personally, feel the symptoms are accurate and I have had most all of them myself. I think ‘Black Box’ is groundbreaking in the sense that bipolar disorder has never been seen before in this light. We have all dealt with such an incredible stigma due to our illness and this show expresses the rawness and truth of what manic and depressive episodes can be like. It is a very vulnerable and necessary place to be.

So Very Vivid is the Art of Bipolar Dreaming

I felt her embrace, her breath. Her words were crystal clear. She said “Please stay. You can’t go”. And she held me tighter. And I did stay. It was a mind-blowing, surreal night. And it was with another woman. She was radiant. Magnetic. And I didn’t have a care in the world. Mostly because it wasn’t real. It was all a figment of my tortured imagination. And the female is simply a musician (who I will probably never meet) whom I happen to have a crush. When I dream a dream, I go all the way to produce the most vivid dreams I can, even if that means removing normal elements -such as the fact that I’m married- from the situation. If I’m lucky, I am able to remember the dream in the morning, which often then lingers in my thoughts for the duration of my day.

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Dreams are so interesting because it’s been known that most everybody has them, yet there is no solid reason why. Several interpretation theories have surfaced throughout time, and some commonalities have been determined. While everyone has dreams, some of us have much more vivid dreams than others. There are links between vivid dreams and mental illness, including bipolar disorder.

One reason is dreams and nightmares occur during REM (rapid-eye-movement) sleep. In normal sleepers, there is more deep sleep at first, and then as the hours pass, periods of REM sleep become longer. This general pattern, however, can be distorted or disrupted by any one of a number of sleep disorders or disturbances, many of which have been shown to be associated with bipolar disorder. (bipolar.about.com)

The most common sleep disorders include insomnia and hypersomnia. Other factors that disturb your sleep include medical conditions, antipsychotics or antidepressants, other over the counter medications and prescriptions, environmental factors, stress, and your sleep schedule.

Vivid vs. Average Dreams

For the most part, everybody has dreams. The majority of dreams are forgotten by morning, and those remembered are usually in fragments. About 80% of dreams are in color, but some are in black and white. Vivid dreams are like a typical dream on steroids. Basically it is so incredibly lifelike that upon waking, it is difficult to distinguish the difference between the dream and reality. It is easier to recall vivid dreams, as they leave such an imprint on the dreamer’s mind. I know I can recall each sensory detail of my most vivid dreams.

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Lucid Dreams and Nightmares

Lucid dreaming is an unusual state of consciousness where you are having a vivid dream, but you are aware that you are dreaming. This allows the dreamer the choice to exit or remain in the dream. Sometimes lucid dreams can be confusing and the dreamer may believe items or people in the room are in fact something other than what they are. This can be entertaining to the dreamer, as well as potentially embarrassing. For instance, had I acted out my steamy dream from last night, my wife would have probably wondered what was up!

Lucid nightmares are exactly like lucid dreams, except they are terrifying. What’s worse is the dreamer knows they are dreaming, but are struggling to wake up. Often feelings of being trapped or being attacked are common.

Sex It Up

According to a recent study at the University of Montreal, sex dreams make up about 8 percent of all dreams for both men and women. (Me!)  Society’s openness regarding sex, coupled with our growing interest in understanding dream content has taught us that, according to most theorists, sex dreams are rarely about sex at all – no matter how hot they might be. It is believed that the mind is hungry for the kind of psychological union represented as a physical union in the dreaming mind. I say this is an interesting theory, but I’m pretty sure many of my dreams are merely about getting down and fucking dirty!

Sleep Plays a Role

Sure, us folks with bipolar have more intense (& sexier) dreams (sorry- I’m still reliving last night!), but there are some things to keep in mind. Sleep is affected by many factors that need to be controlled. Getting quality sleep also helps regulate moods and prevent episodes. These suggestions are a challenge and I admit I struggle to follow them, but they are ideal goals and can be really beneficial.

  • Go to bed & wake up at the same time each day
  • Take meds as directed
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol 3-5 hours before bed
  • Refrain from computer, TV, or phone screen use
  • Read or meditate to wind down
  • Establish a routine for evening and morning

If you get some good, quality slumber tonight, then I wish you all some intense vivid dreaming! It’s also fun to write your dreams down in a journal to preserve the absurdity. Feel free to leave comments on this or share your dream experiences!

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.

“Of Two Minds”, Bipolar Documentary Review

I recently watched the 2012 bipolar disorder documentary, “Of Two Minds”, written and directed by Doug Bush and Lisa Klein. The film features the gripping real-life tales of every day Americans living with bipolar disorder.

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Take a candid view into the lives of people who have been through the perils of extreme ups and downs, succumbing to the enticing world of mania, as well as the empty world of depression. A heavy topic that seemed to be an underlying theme throughout the film is suicide. Almost all of those interviewed had either considered or attempted suicide at some point. I found it to be heartfelt and completely relateable. If you watch the film, I’d be aware of potential trigger warnings, however, for the ideals of suicide appeared to be slightly romanticized at times.

Other topics that were explored include mania, psychosis, depression, interpersonal relationships, family members, professional life, and forms of treatment. I won’t talk about all of them, but I do want to mention how refreshing it was to hear stories of success, and by success I mean every day ‘normal’ living. Also I do feel a little less crazy with my own psychosis and hypersexuality.

Overall I thought the film was nicely done and covered all bases of bipolar disorder without being too clinical. It was compelling in the sense of getting to know each of the brave individuals who bared their souls and allowed the audience inside. I recommend this documentary to those diagnosed with bipolar, loved ones of bipolar folks, students, and mental health professionals. Or anyone just curious about the realities of living with bipolar disorder.

Links:

http://www.oftwomindsmovie.com/

http://www.bipolaradvantage.com/index.php

 

How Does Change Affect You?

I’d like to say that I’m good with change and welcome it with open arms. But that simply isn’t the case. I have mood swings, irritability, feelings of chaos, and I’m often pretty manic. The bigger the change, the less I sleep, the more I obsess over things, the harder I am to deal with. Examples of difficult change for me include moving to a new home, starting a new job- or getting laid off from a job, a family member becoming ill or laid up due to injury, and any time I have too much idle time on my hands. Heck, I can’t even handle the change of seasons very well. In the coming weeks, I am about to embark upon a couple of new changes and I’m getting pretty nervous about it. First, as you know, we are having a baby. My wife is due to give birth December 15th. Of course there’s that uncertainty as to what day the baby is actually coming, and that is making my head go crazy! I want to be as prepared as possible for whenever it happens. But just having a new baby around is so much change in itself. I’m aware that this will affect my bipolar and I’ve had the conversation with my wife about it. Second, I will be laid off from work for the winter months. Last year, I worked through the winter (even though it’s a seasonal business), and had a hard enough time with the lack of work to do, but at least had a routine. Not working will replace my structure with leaving me to fend for myself. Granted, I assume the baby will keep me busy to a point, I just know the changes will be difficult. Lastly, the seasonal change from Fall to Winter is always a tough one.

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It isn’t uncommon for us bipolar folks to struggle with change. There are a few reasons why. First, if we fall out of routine, we tend to get a little lost. Routine is essential for building structure and staying on track with things like meds and moods. Off track means forgetting about tasks and appointments. It’s also easy to get anxious when we feel off. Another reason we dislike change is because it messes up our ability to predict and plan what is going to happen. Of course spontaneity is healthy, but for the most part we feel comfortable if we have knowledge to what is going on. My biggest anxiety is not feeling prepared. I will continue to post about my new life changes and whatever coping strategies I discover.

How are you with change? Do you become anxious when out of your routine? Do you have a hard time getting back on track? What helps you cope?

So Fresh and So Clean!

You may have noticed that Nectar Madness looks a little differently these days. I decided after hitting the one year mark, it was time to show my blog a little TLC with a mini makeover. A new domain, a new theme, and a new sense of commitment. I know better than to make promises of grandeur, so without seeming overly ambitious, I will say that my intentions are to provide more informational posts regarding bipolar disorder and mental health. I’m also interested in exploring more networking and social media avenues. Of course I will continue with my personal stories and poetry as well. My hopes are that this will inspire and educate readers, and be an open door to new readers of the like.

I’m curious as to what bipolar topics readers are interested in. Thoughts?

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Bipolar Disorder = No Life Insurance?

Defective and rejected is how I feel after learning I was denied life insurance due to my bipolar disorder. When I first got this information today, I was confused because as far as I knew, I was perfectly healthy. I wracked my brain for reasons they could deny me- maybe my psychiatrist hadn’t given enough information, maybe the insurance company looked at old records, maybe it was a technical error. I then reviewed my current situation- I haven’t had a bad episode since last year, I haven’t been suicidal in a year, I’m on a good medication regimen, I go to work, I’m in a healthy relationship. What gives? I decided to do a little research about bipolar disorder and life insurance and this whole denial thing. What I learned is this isn’t uncommon. What I think is it’s certainly unfair.

According to insure.com, there are several factors insurers look at when it comes to bipolar disorder. Two main things are control and compliance. They said that acquiring and maintaining treatment are essential. Another key factor is what type of bipolar you have. There is a heightened risk associated with bipolar I, compared to bipolar II, and it falls outside most insurers’ comfort zones. The reasoning- because people who suffer from it have a higher suicide rate. Insurers have to go by statistics when it comes to suicidal tendencies. Because I wanted to know exactly why I was declined coverage, I called to see what they could tell me. Apparently according to the report, having bipolar disorder puts me in a higher risk category, as well as the specific medications that I am taking. The agent suggested weaning off of meds, and if I could be off of them for two years, they could reinstate my application. Obviously, I know this is counterproductive so I did not consider it for a second. Instead, I tried not to feel too discouraged, and I am looking into the alternative accident insurance policies instead.

Has anyone else had this experience?

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Nothing But A Vision, A Poem

If I could re-dream a dream, it would be the one where she asked me about my attractiveness.
And that sensation in the pit of my gut when she balked at my modest “I’m average, I guess”.
For she continued to adore in an awe-struck manner, eloquently, dominantly, decidedly.
She brought out the sheepish in me, complimented by none other than shock and brutal flattery.
She isn’t real. None of it was real. It was nothing but a vision, a stroke of my imagination.
 
How often can I dream?
Every day or every night?
What all does it mean?
Is it false or is it right?
 
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If I could re-direct my direction, I would have never been in the position to spend the night.
And that blow to the hollow of my gut when she cried at my frantic “I’m sorry, I swear”.
For the scene continued in a tension-filled manner heartbreakingly, desperately, recklessly.
She brought out the remorse in me, complimented by none other than shame and tender injury.
She isn’t real. None of it was real. It was nothing but a vision, a stroke of my imagination.
 
How often do I scream?
Every day or every night?
What all does it mean?
Is it false or is it right?
 
If I could re-emerge an existence, it would be fluid and the inventor of charismatic overdrive.
And that warmth that rushes my gut when she notices my assertive, “I’m happy, I’m me”.
For I endorsed a promise in me, to re-birth in a manner so gracefully, graciously, remarkably.
She brought out the risk in me, complimented by none other than force and sincere approval.
She isn’t real. None of it was real. It was nothing but a vision, a stroke of my imagination.
 
How often does it seem?
Every day or every night?
What all does it mean?
It can’t be false if it seems right.

When Obstacles Mock Your Progress

Responsibilities can be a pain. Especially those that directly pertain to treating my bipolar disorder. When I actually do focus and commit to handling something of importance, I feel like I’m on top of things for once. Then on occasion, just when you think the stars are aligned, and you’re coming out ahead, stupid annoyances create stubborn roadblocks to your personal victory. Where am I going with this? Okay, it started yesterday when I attempted to connect with Quest Diagnostics, a medical testing lab, to inquire about Lithium level testing (I usually go to my doctor’s office, but that is no longer feasible). I wanted a price in case my crappy insurance didn’t cover it. Alright, easy enough. I had already put off testing for a week too long and it is getting close to my next appointment, so I took the initiative (meaning- my wife didn’t have to get on my ass), and I called first thing in the morning. Line was busy. No problem, I’ll call back in a bit. Line still busy. Damn, maybe there is something wrong with their phone. I waited an hour and a half, then called again. Ring ring ring- answering machine. Really? Waited another half hour and called back. This time a woman answered. I explained what I needed. She literally told me that she was busy with a patient and that I needed to call back in 10-15 minutes. Now, having worked customer service for several years, I know professional etiquette would have been to take my info and call me back. But whatever. I was in control of this. At this point, I had been at work, in my office, alone. I knew my boss would be here shortly and since I am not out with my bipolar at work, I was really hoping to resolve this without providing him any of my personal business. For safe measure, I gave the woman 20 minutes before I dialed again. Ring ring ring- line busy. Fucking really? Needless to say, I never connected with the lab. And it made me a little anxious because I tend to put off important phone calls, appointment scheduling, and paperwork deadlines. I was nervous that if I didn’t do it yesterday, I wouldn’t do it at all. Damn roadblocks.

Okay, with a fresh mindset, I came to work this morning, and since I was alone, it was safe to call Quest and take care of business already. Ring ring ring- BUSY! I couldn’t believe it. Again I waited about 20 minutes, and yep- still busy. I was now getting angry, but talked myself into taking the proactive route. I Googled other Quest locations, in the hopes that maybe I was just lucky enough to get the incompetent lab office, and even though it was the most convenient location for me, perhaps someone else be of assistance. I called another office and wouldn’t you believe I let that phone ring until the office answering machine picked up. Unbelievable. At this point I gave up. It takes a great deal of effort for me to remember to stay on top of these things, and when the other party can’t get their own situation figured out, it creates problems for me. The bigger problem is that I’ve been trying to connect with them for two days, and I still need to have my blood work done. In a way, my health is being compromised because a company cannot do their job. The only option that could get me anywhere is if I just go down to the lab tomorrow, in person. I hope I don’t need an appointment, because if I do, I have a feeling I may show them how quickly my moods really can swing!

How Is Your Mood Affected By Social Media?

Lately I’ve been noticing negative characteristics in the posts appearing in my Facebook home feed. Among these- depressing observations, pissed off rants, woe is me, FML, and general complaints. I can’t help but notice that there is so much negative in front of my eyes every single day. It’s not just on Facebook. It’s all over Twitter (which I thankfully rarely use), Instagram, and other social networks as well. I find myself rushing to scroll past certain Debbie Downers just because I don’t like the way they make me feel. I can’t help but wonder about the people who say FML on a daily basis. Constant black clouds really tend to affect my mood. The reason I log on to social networks is for enjoyment; an escape for a few minutes of my day.

So this brings me to the question, how does social networking affect one’s mood? In today’s world, we are glued to our smart phones or sitting behind our computer screens. Just this blog alone is considered social media. We’re all so interconnected that we tend to overshare. Oversharing leads to those with nothing but negativity to display. I look at the negativity from two different perspectives. A.) They are looking for attention and have nothing better to do but bring everyone around them down. A.K.A. misery loves company. B.) The depressing nature of their posts are a cry for help.

For those who recreationally complain, I wish they’d be more considerate of their readers. Yes, I know if I don’t like it, I can just delete that person. But one shouldn’t have to be faced with that kind of decision. After reading a feed full of rage or sadness, I must say I don’t feel good. I’m not saying that these folks ruin my day or anything, but I log on in hopes of reading something intriguing, enlightening, humorous, someone sharing a fun event, or even giving thanks. Sure, there are some positive posts, but usually among the whining ones. Or worse yet- the politically bashing memes that litter my feed. I support the freedom of speech, I really do. But I’m here to talk about moods and this is definitely one area that can be pretty grey.

Now, if someone is posting depressing statuses and/or pictures, it could very well be a cry for help. Maybe this person is truly going through a hard time or suffering from an illness. While it is possible, it should be handled in an arena other than popular social networks. I believe there is a time and place for everything and I don’t like my moods being dictated by the moods of others. Maybe you also have this experience, or can relate to what I’m saying.

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Reminiscing One Year Mania-Free

What’s in a year? How about a significant time dedicated to replenishing? Recovery? Rebirth? I bring this up because I look back to this time last year when I was, well, manic. I remember the chaos in my head, the insane amount of energy, the obsessing over music, the delusional ideas, and the fights with my wife. I reflect on the irritability and agitation. Conversely, I reminisce on the indescribable feeling of being alive. That’s the part that really gets me. When I begin to reminisce on my mania (a.k.a. Piper- my alter ego). It’s easy to forget how taxing it can be on the body, or about the crying spells that come out of nowhere, or, in my mixed state, experience intense dark and suicidal thoughts. Instead I get a warm, nostalgic sensation and I begin to miss it a little. My mania draws out my alter ego, Piper, and allows a bonding experience. I felt songs differently, smelled the air differently, and sensed things in a different way. It’s so easy to forget the bad when it comes to thinking of the manic episodes. I admit I’m a little sad this year without my mania and a little part of me will always miss those chaotic days. But I am much healthier and happier now, so of course I wouldn’t trade my state of being today for my manic-mixed state of last October.

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When Boredom Makes You Lose It

Blasé, bored, mundane. 
Everyday the same.
 
I think I’ll go insane.
But just myself to blame.
 
Sugar dripping in the rain.
Porcelain robot I became.
 
Stimulate a thirsty brain.
Force fed back into the game.
 
Trading glitter for cocaine.
Imagination taking aim.
 
Disenchanted I sustain.
Listless hours ought to shame.
 
Unamused, dried to pain.
Chaos spikes a dull mind-frame.
 
Boredom has me on a chain.
Slaving to a world so tame.

 

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!