Crutch, a Poem About Bipolar Depression

Okay, the not so exciting part of Bipolar Disorder is that nagging feeling of depression. The downside of the pole. The dark cloud. You get my point. And because I’ve been dealing with it’s annoying existence, you get to hear about it. Haha. On that note, here is a poem I wrote describing my current state of mind, and how I feel stuck, but want to be free from it. Enjoy.

Cut me up with that serrated tone,
Surviving multiple tricks and tangles
to leave a fragile core un-mangled.

Swallow me whole then spit me out,
I feel that destructive appetite
then savor that insatiable afterlight.

Take me in before it gets too cold
in my pretentious cell, so ripe.
The gradient dream is impossibly bright.

Drink me and my liquid darkness,
Saturated deflation once in vain.
Desire to evolve never the same.

Cradle me with a protective whisper.
Convince my thoughts to fade away.
Compulsive existence plays the break of day.


Invincible and Triggered

And now I say hello to holiday anxiety. It’s true- I declared myself invincible this year and thought I wouldn’t experience any mood triggers or stress. I must really entertain myself because apparently my brain had other ideas. It started four days ago. A simple disagreement with my wife triggered flying high irritability as well as crying spells and road rage. My cycling has been pretty active this whole week. It was slightly unexpected since I have been functioning fine on my newest combo of meds. Now take my agitation and mix it with my extreme boredom…enter the busy mind. The busy mind has been known to be a pre-cursor to my mania. Okay before we go any further, let me explain my work situation. I work in an empty office all day long. I work by myself in that empty office all day long. I’m pretty much left to my own devices and due to the seasonal nature of this particular industry, I have nothing constructive to do. Ok now take that information and imagine that I’ve been driving myself crazy, all day long, these last few days. Finally on Wednesday night I attended my support group and talked about these triggers occurring. I could tell what everyone was thinking as I described my irritability and aggressive feelings, and as I explained my agitation and crying spells, a few people expressed their concern with manic triggers. While I didn’t go into full-blown mania or anything that night, I began feeling a new trigger yesterday. This time it was directly regarding Christmas and not being as fit, financially, as we have been in previous years. The holiday hustle-bustle has never been something I’m good at. Now, I don’t mind things happening fast but when life as we know it becomes about shopping, and the retail journey is more pandemonium than peace, I (as well as many other Bipolars) start to ride the wave of the environmental stimuli. The busy affect of the holidays manifests the busy affect of my brain.

So what do I do about the triggers and cycling?

Well, it has been difficult, I must admit. However, I practice deep breathing exercises religiously. Slooowly inhale, hold for a second, then slooowly exhale. I do this about 5 times. Deep breathing is one of my favorite instantaneous diffusers. The only problem is if I don’t immediately think to go into breathing mode, but I’m noticing this gets easier with practice. Yoga is another excellent tool I use to calm down. A simple sun sequence provides fluid transitions between poses that provide physical stretching and balance, as well as a meditative quality that allows you to expand your mind, easing it to calmness and clarity. These things don’t necessarily take away the mood swings or the irritability, but any amount of relief makes a world of difference, even if it is temporary.

So, overall, I’m a little bit of a hot mess right now. But I’ll be okay. I’m taking my medication and looking for ways to relieve my boredom. Next thing is to just keep on truckin’ it through the holiday season, while reminding myself I don’t have to be invincible.

Relationship with My Disorder

Do you ever feel like you have a relationship with your illness? I mean, it’s a part of us for life, we are constantly reminded of it, and it’s something we have to monitor for changes. We can have bad times and good time with our illness. We know the temperament and the triggers. Indeed, this is a relationship. On that note, I wrote a little poem directly relating to the relationship.

Another day,

Incorrigible way.

Wish I could say,

Or at least relay,

Thoughts kept at bay.

Come now what may.

I’ll sit and pray

For you to stay.

Instead you lay

On a silver tray.

Watching as they

Devour their prey.

Expect me to pay.

Then we must stray.

When apart, we fray.

Apathy’s final spray,

So take me away.

Serenity and Lithium: A Saga about Personal Management

So one thing we have all been taught is that in order to manage your Bipolar Disorder, you must be sure to practice good sleep habits. It’s crucial to get adequate sleep to avoid unnecessary irritability, avoid agitation, and prevent potential triggers. Many of us are on meds that either control, conflict with, or conduce our sleep schedules. Another thing we’re taught is to be aware of potential stimulation triggers around you, or to pay attention to your surroundings. We also have the understanding that meds must be taken on schedule and it’s against the BP commandments to fuck around with meds. This is where my story of last weekend begins..

I take 600mg Lithium and 300 mg Seroquel at night before bed, no later than midnight. Then 300mg Lithium and 5mg Abilify during the daytime. Ok so while I usually have my wife on pharm patrol, I went away to a convention this past weekend, where I spent two nights away from home. Of course while I was away, I was on my own to remember to take my pills.

Now let me fill you in on the convention I was at. It was a very large organization of support groups and motivational speakers, discussion panels, an array of activities, and lots of intensely inspiring people, strong emotions, and an impossible amount of interaction- at all hours of the day…AND night. The convention consisted of several hundred members of Alcoholics Anonymous and affiliated groups, and I was in attendance as a guest of a loved one. I can say, while I genuinely enjoyed offering my support, the intensity of the emotional experience was a bit hefty a tab for the Bipolar gal who’s currently in the process of trying to color inside stability lines.

I did take the meds- just not quite as directed- I took half of a Seroquel 2 days in a row, and washed the others down with my 13th cup of coffee (it is AA, after all)- somewhere around 4am. Somehow I managed to be the first one up, at 7am, took more Lithium and Abilify, and I was eager to go absorb the empowered desperation of the first speaker. This went on for the remainder of the weekend.

Little did I know, this convention was triggering my Bipolar Disorder. While I thought I was simply being supportive and gaining new inspirational perspective (and I did), I was actually nourishing my disease. Flashback to October where I was full blown manic in my psychiatrist’s office, with my wife pleading for him to do something about me. We’ve been working on managing my treatment for the last two months. This emotional ambush sent hypomania into overdrive and my brain decided to go numb, race my thoughts around, and offer the gift of crying spells all the way home. This opportunity I wouldn’t have passed up for anything, however, life gave me a nice bitchslap pertaining to my own personal management.

Personal management in those with psychiatric illnesses, such as alcoholism or Bipolar Disorder, is imperative at all times, not just in the comfort of your home or workplace, or while with friends and family. But at all times. This, ironically, is a topic that many speakers touched on in their panels. Words I absorbed but didn’t apply until now. Once I got home, I acknowledged my triggers and made the commitment to get myself back on track, something that is extremely difficult for those with Bipolar to do. I put myself into a dramedy of caffeine, insomnia, and the serenity prayer. I’m still practicing serenity, just washing it down with a reality check and a side of Lithium.

What Not to Say to Someone With Bipolar Disorder

There are several hurtful things that you could say to a person with Bipolar Disorder that will make them feel like garbage, destroy their self-confidence, and possibly contribute a trigger for an episode. So learn what they are and don’t say them!

What not to say to someone with Bipolar Disorder:

“You are crazy/insane/abnormal/psycho.”
This can be taken as nonsense if it is clearly meant in terms of slang, but for someone who is newly diagnosed, or having a hard time with their diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, they may take it as meaning “completely unable to think clearly or behave properly”, which is pretty offensive.

“Bipolar Disorder doesn’t exist.”
This revolves around validating the diagnosis. Validate the disorder and take your loved one seriously, otherwise you not taking them seriously could be detrimental to their treatment process.

“Snap out of it.”
BP is a real illness and nobody can just come out of it, so don’t tell them to. It’s just plain ignorant!

“It’s just hormonal/PMS.”
While hormones can make BP worse, BP is a disorder independent of any other. Don’t offend someone & mix it up with a different diagnosis. You will come off as ignorant and like you don’t care to learn the facts.

“You have Bipolar, so you’re lazy/stupid/whiny.”
None of these offensive words are used to describe Bipolar Disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. That’s all I’m going to say about this one.

“You’ll never have a real life.”
That is simply not true. While living with BP certainly isn’t always easy, most everyone can have a very active and fulfilling life with the proper treatment and medication.

“There is nothing wrong with you, everybody has mood swings.”
While it’s true that even among those who do not have a diagnosable disorder that has mood swings, people have changes in mood. The mood changes are usually due to circumstances in life, home, and health.

“But you seem so normal!”
That may very well be. First I ask “what is normal?” Then I need people to understand that someone could be in between episodes, could be on medication that produces ‘normal’ behavioral results, or maybe you don’t see this person very often or haven’t known them very long. People can go years between episodes. Also, hypomania is very charismatic and attractive to others, so in that state someone with BP can potentially make several new friends.

“Isn’t that what serial killers have?”
Probably not. Honestly, a serial killer is much more likely to have Antisocial Personality Disorder, or be a sociopath or psychopath.

“Just take medication and you’ll be fine.”
While medication helps tremendously, it doesn’t always help everyone, and it certainly does not get rid of the disorder or treat all of the symptoms.

Please do not be afraid to talk to your friends and family members about their Bipolar diagnosis. This was just meant as a guide to help the ease of conversations between you and your loved ones.

Stay tuned for some helpful tips on how to offer support to your Bipolar peeps!