Category Archives: Mental Health

The ultimate ‘What would you do and why?’ question.


Subjective experiences interest me. 

A research firm calls.  They want you to volunteer to be a research subject for mind altering experiments.  They offer ten million dollars in compensation.

If you say yes now, keep reading.  If not, drop a comment for me as to why, please.

The study will last the rest of life.  You will live in a resort like hospital, and be free to leave at anytime.  If things go badly, then your health will be taken care of, according to the wishes you lay out now.

If no now, comment below.  If yes, read on.

This is a complete roll of the dice as to how it will affect you.  You could have nothing in you change, really.  You could become smarter, you could develop a mental illness.  Death, immortality, everything is on the table.

No, comments.  Yes, keep going.

The first portion of the testing will be a treatment that will alter the way you react to things.  You will find that you are content all the time, even deliriously happy when appropriate.  Things just won’t bother you, and you’ll always be happy.

No, comments.  Yes, keep going.

The next portion of the testing will be taking some various chemicals at increasing dosages, while your health is carefully monitored.  You will be expected to record your state of mind and thoughts on an hourly basis.

No, comments.  Yes, keep going.

The next part of the testing will involve chemical and gene therapy on your brain, directly, to overcome the blood-brain barrier.  You will be anesthetized and, due to earlier testing, happy.

No, comments.  Yes, keep going.

The final stage of the testing, they surgically implant devices into your brain that allow you to directly interface with it.  You can have experiences akin to the Matrix, instantly learning things, experiencing anything you want while jacked in.

The devices can’t be removed, but you will have the choice to leave the Matrix at any time, and you are not required to ever use it again.

No, comments.  Yes, keep going.

Your experiences and thoughts will be constantly recorded and uploaded to a research computer.  It will include data that will enable them to experience your every moment, as you, believing that they are you while experiencing it.

This effect will happen while you are in the Matrix, and and outside of it.  You can ask that they delete it all on delivery.

Comments, please.  My opinion on this will be in the comments as well.  There are no wrong answers, and if you don’t want your responses published, just note it in your comment.

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Filed under Creative ideas, Mental Health, People with interesting ideas, Philosophical Q&A, Social ideas, Things I like

Suicide


Hopeless-4fd5b14b0d0f2

So. You’re reading this because you googled suicide or something similar. Maybe you’re thinking about it. Maybe you know someone thinking about it. Maybe you’re just trying to understand why people do it.

First of all, since this is a touchy subject in the extreme, let me introduce myself. My name is Arthur. I am diagnosed Bipolar 1 with psychotic features. To make that understandable, I have physical and emotional experiences that don’t necessarily relate to current events in my life, and I always see and hear things that aren’t there. It makes life… interesting, to say the least.

I have attempted suicide multiple times, and I still think about it. Every day. The question that doctors and such like to ask: “Do you have a plan?” is almost meaningless. Potential means for suicide surround us constantly, so the plan is always available. I haven’t successfully done it yet(obviously… 😛 ), and while I make no guarantees for ‘never’, I haven’t actively attempted in quite a long time.

I still remember the sensation of every attempt, from the sawing sensation as the blade bit through my flesh, to the taste of gunmetal and blood as I scratched the roof of my mouth with it, to the fear I hadn’t taken enough pills and the ensuing chocolatey yet dirty taste of the quart and a half of charcoal I had to drink afterwards.(You poop it all out, by the way.  It’s bad.)

Sorry about that.

Sorry about that.

But why? That’s the question I want to answer. Why do I, and maybe other people, think about, attempt, and sometimes succeed at, suicide?

In some cases, I was just so tired. Every breath was an effort, all food tasted the same, and all I could think was that it just never gets better. No matter what happens, the joy is always short lived and the grinding way that life goes always brings you down.

In others, my brain just wouldn’t shut up. Nothing made sense and I couldn’t grab one of the bits of thought that was racing around in my head and tie it to another one in a way that made any kind of sense. Tons of energy and no motivation to do anything with it.

But that’s me. What about other people? (Maybe you?)

There are a million situational reasons. Maybe the person doesn’t feel loved. Maybe they suffer from an uncurable illness. Maybe they feel guilty. Maybe they’re just tired of fighting, grinding their way through life. In the end, though, it all boils down to one thing.

A lack of hope.

The thought process goes something like this: This sucks. Tomorrow, this will suck, therefore tomorrow will suck. The day after that will suck. The next week, the next month, and I just don’t think it’s worth experiencing the amount of suck that is going to occur in order to experience that potential joy that I’m told exists but that is so far removed from me that it may as well be a fairy tale.

As far as hope goes, when it’s there you never notice it. It just is. It’s part of the way you think and the way you are. When it’s gone, you don’t generally know that that’s what’s missing. You only know that everything is intolerable and you are simply done with it. That’s when the thought first shows up, for many.
That first thought is terrifying for some, and they run directly to get help. For many, it isn’t terrifying. It’s a comfort, even beautiful. It’s the most soothing siren song in the world, and if you’ll only do this one tiny little, simple thing, all the pain goes away.

It doesn’t tend to mention that it’s all a lie.

Suicide is not an easy thing. Your body, your mind, fights you even as it encourages you to do it. Pulling a blade across your skin is easy, pushing down hard enough to hit an artery is beyond hard. Overdosing and ‘just going to sleep’ is beyond difficult as well, as the dosages required to kill you are far greater than those that will just destroy your body, shortening your life span but making you live under constant watch and care as your destroyed organs fail. Putting a gun in your mouth and pulling the trigger requires you to mentally overcome every survival urge your body has, and it is in that moment that your mind tends to flounder about, reaching for any hope that it can call up to keep you from squeezing the trigger.

The main thing that I have lacked, as far as successfully committing suicide goes, is enough anger to accept that I will hurt people simply by no longer being there. Anger is as irrational and powerful as lust, I think. That emotion is what makes a person do whatever it takes to die, and is probably at the heart of these public suicides that take the lives of others in the process.

So. Hopeless anger is what causes suicide by cop, suicide by shooting people, suicide in public or with a manifesto attached. Even that quiet end where someone manages to overdose and die in their sleep, they were tired, hopeless and angry enough to take enough pills or whatever to make sure they wouldn’t wake up.

How do you fight it?

I have some survival questions and rules that have kept me from attempting for a long time. Here they are:

1: Is my pain of greater value than the potential pain this will cause others?

Generally, no.  Your death will probably cause pain to at least one other person, even if that person is just trying to bury you.  More than likely, people will grieve, probably for years, and be sad, depressed, and angry, much like you’re feeling now.

This falls apart when delusion takes over, though. If you aren’t angry, then this should be a big deal, and your empathy should kick in to some degree. In my case, I tend to fall into this place where I believe that a lack of having to deal with me would be a good thing to those that this choice would otherwise cause. That’s when I move onto the next rule…

2: Wait 24 hours, and sleep for no more than 8 of them, and no less than 6 of them.

Sleep does some amazing things, including allowing your brain to take a break. If you can’t sleep at all during those 24 hours, go to a hospital and tell them the situation. Yes, they will admit you. Yes, it will suck. Take a bag, something to read, and a notebook and pen so that you can write down all of the crap in your head.

I limit it to 8, because past that amount, I tend to feel worse. I will want to make sleep my escape, and it will turn into a situation where that’s all I do. This will hurt others just as bad, and if I don’t commit suicide, I’ll have to apologize to those it hurts, which sucks, which feeds into the thought process I mentioned above with some self-hatred and anger thrown in.

3: Do that thing you like, that you have access to, one last time.

Let’s say you like milkshakes. Go to the store, and buy one. Think about the fact this may be the last one you ever have. Love the sound of crashing waves? Go to a beach. Let yourself experience that, and think about the fact that this may very well be the very last time you do it.

You may find that you’d like to be able to do it again, enough to go to the hospital or police or whomever and tell them about it.

4: Once it’s done, it’s done. Did you do everything else possible?

Suicide, if successful, is the very last thing you will ever do. That’s it. No takebacks. Heaven, hell, reincarnation, none of that is guaranteed beyond your own personal belief. As far as you know, you are hitting the off switch on life with a hammer. There’s no turning it back on. Did you try quitting that job, leaving that relationship, moving away and starting over from scratch? People do those things, and are successful. Did you try them? Maybe you should.

I’m not going to lie to you. Life is hard. We fuck up. Other people hurt us. We hurt ourselves. We dream of comfort and stability, we imagine joy, but none of those things are guaranteed. We try to get help and the system we have has long waiting periods for appointments, and no real concept of fixing anything, only mitigating symptoms and making us manageable by society. (Seriously, world, what are you people doing? You say you care, but all you do is say it and encourage people to take the pills when we have all of this marvelous technology and money to throw at all of these other things… but I digress.)

Even then, suicide is probably not the best answer.

I know, if you’re here because you’re thinking about doing it, you’re still thinking about it. So, make a plan. Plan your death, the whole shebang, including your obituary and funeral arrangements.  Think about who will react to it, how they’ll react, and what you want them to take away from it.

At the same time, make another plan. This one is to leave the situation and just go somewhere else. Plan on being broke, homeless, jobless, and without a friend in the world when you go. It’s the same thing as suicide, but you’re giving yourself one more chance to find something tolerable. Plan it all the way out, to include what paperwork you need to take, how much you can reasonably carry, and where you’ll go.

Now. I want you to consider this: the end goal is to make the old situation go away, right? Both plans do this. Both plans hurt people emotionally, but you’ll be either dead or away from those it hurts, so you don’t have to deal with that unless you want to alleviate the pain.  One way means that perhaps you’ll find joy in a starlit night or be able to dance in the snow.  Maybe try that one?

Final Thoughts

I’ve been in there, in that space. I know. I care. I’m not the only one, but none of us are psychic. You have to talk to us, and not just the people that blow it off or don’t listen or freak out. Everyone’s not like that. Use your words. The smallest words you have are enough. If you do decide to go, though, and there’s no changing your mind, know that you will be missed. You might have been that person who I’d run into someday and we’d be become best of friends. You might be the one who saves someone else from something horrible. You might be just a comfort to the people around you, just knowing you’re there, you’ve been through hell, and you’re still here, and that’s enough to make them keep going. If you still go, know that I hope that you find it’s better on the other side.

If you comment something personal, it will remain private unless you say in the comment that it’s okay to share.
Feel free to share this out there into the world, too. Maybe it’ll help somebody.

1 (800) 273-8255 Suicide prevention hotline

http://hopeline.com/ (This one is all a chat)

Dandelions are called names, killed, and generally despised. They keep trying anyway, with everything they have. That's hope, to me, and I love them for it.

Dandelions are called names, killed, and generally despised. They keep trying anyway, with everything they have. That’s hope, to me, and I love them for it.

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Filed under Mental Health, Social ideas, Things I like, Thoughts

What racing thoughts are like…


Over the course of many years of psychiatric care, I have been asked a number of questions for which I had no good answer.  This is the best way I can think of to answer, “…and what’s that like?”…

Here’s an example “stock” answer I filed away for those times when I knew they were going to ask: Sometimes my thoughts are like raindrops.  Bold and surprising when they hit me, but I am aware of more.

I have come up with, what I think is, a way that maybe I can show you.  This will require some participation on your part, but all you need is a deck of simple playing cards.

Look at the cards.  Say each name.  Take in what it looks like.  This is me when I have a good handle on my thoughts.  I enjoy the little nuances, the texture of the card, the way it shines in the light.  Sometimes this thought-mode weirds me out, because I become acutely aware of whatever I’m doing…  like typing…  (lol)

Now, take the deck in your hands and begin moving the cards, one at a time, from one hand to the other.  I use my thumb to push them over, like I’m sorting through a hand of cards, but don’t spread them out.  You only need to move them about a half the width of the card.  (Yes, I like specific instructions.)

As you’re doing this, pick a card to watch for.  Generally, you can sort through pretty quickly and still find the one you’re looking for.  This is how a thought process should work.  (I imagine.)

My true normal is with the following added challenge:  Focus on the center of the cards as you’re doing it, and try to focus on a spot in the middle distance, that area that is somewhere about 6 inches from the cards.  It’s doable, but it can be a challenge.  Decisions take a bit longer as I try to sort through things.

More on decisions later.

“Racing thoughts” is when you take the cards and just flip through them really fast.  Like trying to spot a card as someone shuffles them.  Remember the instructions before about picking a card?  Try to stop on that one.

If possible, try to have someone else flip and stop when you tell them.  See if you land on the card that way.

Yeah, that’s racing thoughts.

 

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Internal Computing of Morality(for me)-or why I hate my brain sometimes…


mammalian-brain-computer-inside

(image credit: http://www.voodish.co.uk/articles/human-brain-simulated-on-super-computer/)

Morality. Noun. Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.

I always wonder how people develop their morality, how they make “moral” choices, and what they mean when they describe a person as a “moral” person. It’s honestly something of a curiosity to me.

Let’s take a look at the definition, first. “the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad”

Think about that for a minute. Does right equal good? Does wrong equal bad? Who is it that decides these things, exactly?

For some, the answer is simple. They point to a deity of one sort or another, look at their sacred texts, and come back with an answer to what is right or wrong based on that. The problem with this, is that there are several to choose from, and while societies can form that support these ideals, those societies tend to be at odds. In general, within these societies, there are also conflicts within them about the interpretation of the sacred text and what it is the society itself should be doing, causing splinters within the society.

For others, they go with instinct. The problem I have with instinct is that instinct seems lot flipping a coin or rolling dice to decide on the outcome of a given situation. There’s no real thought put into it, you just go forth and do, and hope for the best. Some of these people do well, some do not. Instinct alone is all about survival, and while you may survive and even thrive on it, it makes you a bit random. The only thing that is apparent to me that those who follow instinct first and foremost can be depended upon for is to look out for their own interests first in any given situation. Whether this is good or bad is a question that I’m not convinced even applies.

So, morality is still an enigma, as far as how other people come to their decisions and whatnot. This is how my mental computer works, as far as I can understand.

1:Input: Something is Happening.

2:Choice: Is the input signifying something that must be decided on now? If yes, continue, if no, return to input.

3:Choice: Is the input enjoyable? If yes, continue. If no, continue to step 7

4:Choice: Is the input good? If yes, continue. If no, continue to step 7

5:Choice: Is the input right, wrong, or neutral? If right, continue, if wrong, continue to step 7 if neutral return to step 2

6:Return to Input and continue

7:Cease activity and return to Input.

*****************************************************

Pretty basic, right? The problem here is defining the variables “enjoyable”, “good”, “right”, “wrong, “bad”, and “neutral”.

Looking a little bit deeper at myself, I find that I have quick lists in my head. Like bookmarks. Each variable has a tab, and each seems to have a list of experienced activities and sensations attached.

The problem is this, though. I can’t figure out what subroutine in my head places things in the tabs as they are. I know that some were learned, whether by parents, society, school, or religion. Those things are all also marked as things told, not experienced.

I have another tab, though, marked experienced. This is another list of things, some of which are in the not experienced tab. These two tabs seem to be outside of my decision making process, though, as I look at my internal “program” above, I see no place where the use of either tab fits.

:internal examination:

On further examination, I find that somewhere along the way I placed in my “good” and “enjoyable” tabs the concept of increasing the number of things under my “experienced” tab. Further, this seems to be reinforced by something that affects the way I receive input. It’s sort of like this:

1: Input: Something is Happening. If input is not currently in experienced tab, check told tab for variable reference, but force continue once. If input is in neither tab, force continue once.

The problem here is that it suggests there is more to the program than I have seen so far. It appears that it actually goes more like this:

1: Input: Something is Happening. If input is not currently in experienced tab, check told tab for variable reference, but force continue once. If input is in neither tab, force continue once.

2:Choice: Is the input signifying something that must be decided on now? If yes, continue, if no, return to input.

3:Choice: Is the input enjoyable? If yes, continue. If no, continue to step 7 If no reference, go to enjoyable subroutine.

4:Choice: Is the input good? If yes, continue. If no, continue to step 7 If no reference, go to good subroutine.

5:Choice: Is the input right, wrong, or neutral? If right, continue, if wrong, continue to step 7 if neutral return to step 2 If no reference, go to right/wrong subroutine.

6:Return to Input and continue

7:Cease activity and return to Input.

************************************************

So-I have subroutines to examine.

*************************************************

Enjoyable subroutine

1: Input: Something is happening.

2: Choice: Does the enjoyable tab have anything similar to this, but different enough to be considered a unique experience? If no, continue. If yes, mark enjoyable and return to decision making process at step 3.

3: Choice: Does this cause me some kind of pain? If no, continue. If yes, mark as “painful” and continue.

4: Choice: Does this cause anyone else any kind of pain? If yes, cease activity and reboot system. If no, continue.

5: Choice: Does this give me pleasure? If yes, mark “pleasurable” and continue. If no, force check to decision making process at step 4.

6: Choice: Does this give anyone else pleasure? If yes, mark pleasurable. If no, force check to decision making process at step 4.

7: For each pleasure, add one point. For each painful, subtract one point.

8: If points is greater than zero, mark experience “enjoyable” and return to decision making process.

******************************************************

Good seems to be similar, but different. It includes a couple of extra steps.

1: Input: Something is happening.

2: Choice: Does the good tab have anything similar to this, but different enough to be considered a unique experience? If no, continue. If yes, mark good and continue.

3: Choice: Does this cause me some kind of pain? If no, continue. If yes, mark as “painful” and continue.

4: Choice: Does this cause anyone else any kind of pain? If yes, mark as painful and continue. If no, continue.

5: Choice: Does this give me pleasure? If yes, mark “pleasurable” and continue. If no, continue

6: Choice: Does this give anyone else pleasure? If yes, mark “pleasurable”. If no, continue.

7: For each pleasure, add one point. For each painful, subtract one point.

8: If points is greater than zero, mark experience “good”

9: If points is zero or less, but activity is marked “good”, then remove “good” marking and remove “good” marking from similar experiences.

10: Return to decision making process at step 5.

***********************************************

One more subroutine… Right, wrong, neutral.

Right/Wrong subroutine:

1: Input: Something is Happening

2: Choice: If input is not marked experienced, check learned tab and continue.

3: Choice: If input is marked learned and marked right within tab, mark right and continue, if not, continue.

4: Choice: If input is marked enjoyable, mark right and continue, if not mark wrong and continue.

5: Choice: If input is marked good, mark right and continue, if not mark wrong and continue.

6: For each right mark, score one point.

7: For each wrong mark, subtract one point.

8: If points is greater than 0, mark right and continue if not, cease activity and mark wrong.

9: Choice: Does this cause anyone harm? If yes, mark wrong and return to decision making process at step 3 for reevaluation.

10: Return to decision making process at step 6.

************************************************

Whew! That’s pretty involved.

Well, for me, the good news is that I can now examine these processes, and if I can examine them, I can tweak them. The bad news-this is just how I sort things out internally as to morality and decision making. It tells me nothing of what to expect from others, unless everyone works off of something similar.

So… how about you tell me? How similar is your own process? If it’s completely different, how is it different? Can you edit this process in ways that will make it more efficient, or line up more to the way society works?

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Filed under For followers, Mental Health, People with interesting ideas, Philosophical Q&A, Social ideas, Things I like, Thoughts

Having Bipolar-A down day.


“How are you?”

I’m a little down today.  My anxiety is up, which shrinks my temper.  I want to do things, but don’t want to do them, too.  I want to be around people, but the people annoy me, which makes me feel anxious and irritated.  For their sake, I isolate myself.  It’s not the best way of handling things, I know, but it’s what I know to do.  I want to be held but don’t want to be touched.  I want to be productive, but to be productive I’ll have to be around people.  I could try to find something ‘fun’ to do, but right now everything irritates me anyway, so why try?

“I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?  You look like you’re mad or something.”

I am mad, but not about anything I can put a name to.  Everything I try to think about I see only the dark, cynical, hopeless side.

“No, I’m okay.  How are you?”

“Oh, I’m good… (insert attempt at conversation here)”

I would love to listen to what you say and take an interest, but any response I have is a struggle to get out.  I wish I could be in your head for a little while, to know what it’s like not to overthink everything, to not be in this space.  To have access to simple emotional responses without having to run them through the filters of ‘Is this reasonable or not?’.  I look at you while you talk, and have no idea how to respond.  I guess I’ll go with…

“Oh yeah?  That’s nice.”

“Um, well, I have to go do something else.  Bye!”

Now I’ll spend some time berating myself for failing to interact in a reasonable way, for driving you away.  I didn’t mean to do it, didn’t want to do it, but without some kind of telepathic mind-link or something, I simply can’t say the things that are going on inside of me right now.  I have no idea why I’m feeling this way right now, and if I did tell you, you would want to help me.  You’d ask that question:  How can I help?  I would respond:  I have no idea.  The conversation would end and we’d all stand around feeling awkward.  You don’t deserve to go through it.  I would really rather you think I’m an ass hole or being moody or a jerk than have you in this weird space.

****************************

Down days suck.  No pithy advice here, just an experience.  Go read something upbeat or look at lolcats or something now.  Smile for me.  Don’t worry, this will pass.

Some funny pictures

Cats with funny or cute captions

Monty Python

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A response to questions ‘on bipolar’ (dealing with meds and doctors)


I have been asked, in comments, a number of things about bipolar, especially about particulars from those who care about people who either have it or appear to have it.  This was my answer to one of those questions, and it’s rather long.  I’ll try to go through the comments and collect the questions and do some posts to answer them as well.

The comment:

I want to thank you for this post. My sister was diagnosed with having bipolar four years ago. I was so resistant with believing such diagnosis because bipolar is not something that just arises out of no where. Yes, she abused drugs and alcohol for ten plus years prior to her diagnosis. Meth was her drug of choice for years and with any drug, tolerance rises. She began hallucinating one day in a grocery store which seen her first involuntary hospitalization. At first, the doctors diagnosed her as schizophrenic, but as therapy progressed forward, they changed the diagnosis to bipolar. Her personality does match what you describe here and I never really understood what went on inside her. This definitely offers me insight and I am grateful towards your candid honesty here. I feel a bit more connected with her now and I think I can understand her better during her “manic” moments. I only wish she would stay on her medications. I don’t understand why she continues to choose to refrain from taking these medications when there is a solid pattern of how much it helps. Do you find it difficult to take your medications on a consistent basis? How does the medication affect you? She describes it as she feels nothing at all. A walking, rational zombie that has no real connection with anything and she says she hates that aspect of the medication. They help with maintaining a certain balance emotionally, apathy. Is the same true for you or does this mean she needs to readjust her meds? I know these are rather pointed, personal questions so you really do not need to answer them if you feel them to be too personal. I would really like to understand a bit more about this condition that seems to be ruining my sister’s life. Again, I thank you for being so open about this!

My response:

I have actually considered writing a post about medication,but I fear that it may actually “turn people off” to taking it as they are supposed to. That said, let me answer your questions.

Do you find it difficult to take your medications on a consistent basis? That depends on a few things, but the biggest two things would be finances and side effects. For the most part, no, it’s easy enough to take the meds, I usually just joke about simply poring milk over them and calling them my meal replacement. :) Finances can be an issue, as generics are not available for every medication. There are usually other meds that will do the job, though, or symptoms and side effects I can “learn to live with”, but that doesn’t make it any less of a pain to do.

How does the medication affect you? One medication I take is “lithium carbonate”. It’s an older drug and pretty well researched, even if they haven’t nailed down why it helps. Check this page: http://www.drugs.com/sfx/lithium-carbonate-side-effects.html

I want you to read all the effects and notice a couple of statements: 1) “patients sensitive to lithium may exhibit toxic signs at serum levels below 1.5 mEq/L” and 2) “These side effects are an inconvenience rather than a disabling condition, and usually subside with continued treatment or a temporary reduction or cessation of dosage. If persistent, a cessation of dosage is indicated

What these two things translate into when dealing with doctors, for me: “I understand that you are having these effects, but you have to just keep taking the medication. It does seem to help, and, eventually, they will subside.”

This brings me to another point of the experience-overmedication. Doctors will try to treat you with medication for every symptom and side effect you have. At one time I was taking Depakote, klonopin, risperdal, seroquel, prazosin, effexor, and a couple of others. I was, for all intents and purposes, a zombie. I was calm, I was not unhappy, but I had almost no “feeling” and my thoughts were brief and simple.

Think about that for a second. Me. Someone who loves to write, loves philosophy and art, enjoys seeking beauty in mundane places-all things which require intellect and clarity of thought. All of that was out of reach. I could sit and watch TV, but I couldn’t maintain my thoughts enough to play more complex video games. I was also basically narcoleptic, falling asleep every time my eyelids closed.

I can see when all this medication could be reasonable-in response to a severe manic or depressive or mixed episode. In order to be able to treat bipolar, a person needs to be as close to “baseline” as they can and work on medications that cause them to stray too far from that baseline. If I were in the hospital, or in the doctor’s office regularly because I was suicidal or something, I’d quickly be given a large number of meds.

I now take only four medications, and that is only because I came across a doctor that was willing to listen to me and accept that I wanted to be a partner with him in my treatment, and not just a patient. I came to doctor’s appointments with printouts and research I had done on my own, and a willingness to flatly refuse to continue taking a medication that I felt I could show that I had side effects that were subjectively worse than the symptoms they were meant to treat. I was always calm when I met with him for those sessions, and reasoned with him about them as well as trying to be extremely honest about my experiences.

I was lucky.

Most people go into a panic at the Doctor’s, and sometimes with good reason. Many doctor’s have the idea that,”I am educated and simply know more than you, so your problems are irrelevant.” Many are also overworked, swamped with so many clients they just don’t have time to listen to everything the patient had to say.

Combining the experience in the doctor’s office with the experience of side effects and combating the symptoms all at the same time is a terrifying prospect for anyone, too. That’s what goes through my mind any time someone says “adjust your meds”. Another period of weeks or months where I am basically taking a pill that I am almost guaranteed to experience something new that sucks which may or may not help with the things I know that already suck. For at least the first couple of weeks, I am almost guaranteed to have a worsening of symptoms while the drug “gets in my system”… but I will almost immediately have side effects that may or may not go away with time.

I think this process is a major part of why so many people who have bipolar turn to suicide. If this is all my life is going to be, then what is the point? I have been at that point, and have the scars to prove it. I wasn’t quite desperate enough to successfully follow through with it, but the desire to end the suffering I was experiencing by being “on the roller coaster” which was being compounded by my experiences with medication was ridiculously strong, adding to my own lack of stability… for which they wanted to try another medication… and on and on into a downward spiral.

I wish I had some solutions to offer at this point. I have some suggestions, but they will all require quite a bit of work and bravery on the part of your sister.

1: Journal what you experience. Every up, down, weird sensation, thing someone else noticed. Everything. Put it in there and then try to identify the things that you don’t like or that impair your ability to pursue what you see as happiness.

2: Research your meds and illness. There are a number of excellent publicly available resources on the internet for this purpose. This way, you can go back to your journal and say,”Ok, so this is not a part of my base illness, but a part of the medication. Is this worse than what I experience with my illness?” If you decide that it is, try to get into the doctor as soon as possible, and make it a point to take your journal and your research with you. Show the doctor that you are working to try to get control of your illness and not just relying on their knowledge. If they try to tell you not to do the research, well, the best I can say is to find a new doctor. A doctor who is willing to respect you and work with you in your research is priceless and vital.

3: Talk about it with other people who have bipolar. Tell them what you are feeling. Listen to what they feel and experience. Everyone has a different experience, but there are some things that ring true for everyone I have ever met who had bipolar. There’s nothing like thinking you are completely alone in your experiences and then finding that there are others who share some of the same experiences within the illness. It’s nice to come across a person who can make jokes about it as well-and most of the jokes by people with bipolar about the experience are frowned on by people who do not have the illness.

An example-Nobody can party like a manic. To an average person who doesn’t experience having bipolar-more often than not people are aghast. It’s like we’re promoting the idea that mania is a good thing and to be desired. The secret-mania is a lot like being high, the problem is that if you stay high all the time it’s hard to “have a life” at the same time. People with bipolar and experience mania know this and can talk about that while passing stories about wild times and laughing, and knowledge can be shared and attitudes helped. It’s hard to do anything but stop talking when the other person is harping on how bad your “pleasant/funny” memory is.

4. The hell with what other people think. They aren’t in your skin, and so long as you are not hurting anyone or doing something illegal, do what makes you happy. (I honestly think the world would be a better place if everyone rolled with this one, but it’s kind of vital for someone with bipolar)

5. Find joy. This can be tough, I know, when you feel like you are physically shaking apart inside and you are caught on the roller coaster, but there’s almost always SOMETHING. Does music calm you? Listen to it. Does reading distract you? Read. Do games keep you safe-both from the internal goings on as well as potentially making bad decisions while working out how to deal with the illness? Then play them. Every moment of your life should not be about the illness. If you find methods of thinking or planning that help you, it will take time and practice and failure to turn them into habits you don’t even notice anymore, and that sucks. During that time, make sure to do some things that let your brain rest a bit from everything. Take time to listen to the rain or check out a meteor shower. Go to a petting zoo and pet a baby animal. Play with a kitten or a puppy. There’s an old irish saying that I will now misquote: “Life is a series of tragedies and unrelenting sadness, occasionally lit by moments of astounding awe and joy.” Nobody lives for sadness or tragedy. Nobody lives for mundane things, even. We are driven to things which give us joy, no matter how small the amount. Let yourself enjoy things. Believe me-I enjoy a nice hypomanic state when I can get one, and I will enjoy it while I watch carefully to make sure it doesn’t keep going up into the realm of true mania. But believe me, when I’m there, I enjoy it. If I’m on a downswing, I’ll let myself enjoy some of that, whether it’s the sleep or watching tear-jerking movies or whatever gives me joy at the time.

Understand, too, that I am not a professional, and your sister may not experience any of this as I have explained it. Most people with bipolar use comparisons and imagery to try and draw a picture of what they experience for people who don’t experience the same things. It’s a lot like explaining blue to a blind man, or Beethoven to a person born deaf. The experience will never be the same for the two, and only poorly translated.

Your job, though, is both simple and difficult, if you choose to take it up.

Ask her what she needs, and accept what she says. “I need some time alone” means exactly that. “I need to talk” means she needs to talk. “I want to go/do X” means that she wants to do whatever it is. If it’s not reasonable for whatever reason, try to explain it to her using real explanations without talking “down” to her. Make sure she knows that you WANT to be there for her and that you respect her enough as a person to be willing to believe what she says when it comes to what she is experiencing. Hold her accountable for her bad choices and roll with choices that are absurd but not “bad”. In other words, no illegal activities, but hey, you want to hit the pool at 3AM? Meh, why not?

What I’m trying to get at is that you have to learn to be a bit absurd, because bipolar is an absurd illness. The more control over her own life and destiny and medication she feels she has, the more control over the illness she will find. It’s a helluva road, and at the four year mark I was completely lost in it. If it would help, tell her to get in touch with me. I’ll do whatever I can.

I hope this sheds some light for folks who have these sorts of questions.  “Why did they go off meds?” Is the most common question I have ever heard about the illness and people with it.  If you have questions like this, feel free to ask them and I will do my best to answer.  Bear in mind, of course, that I HAVE the illness, I am not a psychiatrist, and my experience and knowledge is specific to me and not to be taken as medical advice or anything like that.  I’m just a person with the illness, and this is what I have experienced and things that have worked for me.  🙂

 

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A popular public figure changes his position on Marijuana.


What is there to say?  It’s time to legalize, at least for medical use.  Are you going to argue that it’s worse than vicodin?  Be real.

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