Rapid Cycling Mixed Episode

In This Mental Illness Life, Things Change Fast

For the last two days, I had a rare feat even for someone that is dealing with Bipolar One–a rapid cycling mixed episode.

I think it has only happened to me about ten times in my mental illness life, but it is the worst feeling in the world. For those that don’t know too much about a mixed episode in Bipolar One, it is where you experience both mania and depression at once. What makes it rare for me is that I don’t tend to know that it is happening to me in the moment. It is usually one of two ways–depression with manic symptoms or mania with depressive symptoms. For me over the last two days have been mania with depressive symptoms.

I could tell I was manic. The need for sleep the past two nights have been zero. My mind and thoughts were all over the place. I could not concentrate and I had an unlimited amount of energy. I was so irritable, and I wanted so bad two drink whiskey and smoke cigarettes (both of which I have not done in years.

When I am just manic, which often happens when I am coming off a depression cycle like the one I had, I deal just fine. I could feel right away that this was different. At the same, I was feeling extremely hopeless. I didn’t want to keep going. Phrases like “why should I even try,” began to take shape in my mind. At times I was a ball of mess. I was anxious, and I let my irritations cloud my judgment

I wanted to scrap my entire memoir and quit thinking that writing is something that is the best thing in my life. I was the worst parts of myself. I was far from the guy who’s philosphy is “Always Keep Fighting.”

I was self-destructive. I slipped, and I felt so bad about it. For the first time in so many years, I wanted to give up. I sat in the dark for hours lost in the darkest places in my mind. A place I have not lived for a long time. I wanted to not be a part of this life. I have not written a sentence like that one in the present, it was always talking about the past.

I could not believe I could go so low. I felt alone. Lost. As if I was back in the worst years of my life. I kept cycling between mania and depression. At times it was mixed. I felt all of it at once. I wanted it to just end. How could someone so strong fall so quickly?

I finally slept. I took a mental health day, and it helped. By the end of the day, I was so worn out that slept more. I reflected on what the hell was going on in my life. Could I have done something different?

That is where I am today. Picking up the pieces and wondering what is next and what are the causes. It is isolation. The lack of connecting with others? I was so excited that we at The Bipolar Writer Collaborative blog had finally reached the business level. I was so happy to start this week. I can only hopefully move on.

I was able to start something I hope will be amazing for my writing career–a Patreon account. If you have a moment, please check it out. I will write a blog post later today with the details.

https://www.patreon.com/JamesEdgarSkye

Always Keep Fighting

James

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Hope

This is something that I’ve been struggling since I’ve hit my “bottom” after my depressive episode last summer.

I don’t think I really understood what it meant to be hopeless until then.

I keep looking forward for “exciting” things. Things that can make me happier, or new things that bring positive changes to my life. But I always end up making full circle thinking – “what now?”

I buy myself the things that I want, treat myself with a trip that I want. But even in those moments, I start to scramble on what I can do to find hope – again.

Hope is a strange thing.

We talk about hope like it’s a tangible item that we can buy or get if we achieve a certain state of mind.

It saddens me to know that I know how it feels to be absolutely hopeless in a world that shouts there is still hope.

I strive my best to surround myself with a community that brings me joy, but it seems like there is so much others can do for me.

I try my best to utilize my tools to stop myself from spiraling down into a negative hole of thoughts, but sometimes that is just not good enough.

Today, I am still searching my way to find hope.

I am happy and content, but I want more.

More of this that can allow me to enjoy even the slightest things I have in this life, and to be the hope others can find hope as well.

I want more hope. Is that too much to ask?

 

Depression for Dummies

Hi. I’m Chelsea, and I am married to a wonderful, talented, intelligent man who is pretty dumb when it comes to mental illness.

Perhaps you know someone like this. Your bright, helpful person may be a friend, parent, brother, sister, or boss. As well-meaning as he or she might pretend to be, this acquaintance just doesn’t get it. Worse, he or she is often so inept that whenever effort is made, you feel he or she constantly places a clumsy finger right on a fresh bruise and pushes.

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But our friends and family don’t have to be idiots. Honestly, we really need love and support for our mental health and we can be tough nuts to crack.

In light of that, I’ve developed a helpful guide. I call it The Depressive Feelings/Better Responses Guide (of Science). Just whip this puppy out whenever you want to whip them upside the head and you’ll both feel better:

  1. When someone says that he is feeling depressed, a cheery life aphorism like, “Life isn’t all bad,” “Don’t worry; be happy,” or “The sun’ll come out tomorrow” isn’t helpful. At all.
    Instead, try, “I understand that you are feeling depressed.” This may easily be followed by, “I’d like to help alleviate some of your stress. Can I clean your whole kitchen for you?,” or “…I happen to know that chocolate is half-off at the store. I’ll be right back with a pound or two.”
  2. If a depressed person says she feels hopeless; that everything in life is hard: the incorrect response is to point out how easy her life is. Please oh please do not say, “But you don’t have any serious issues like cancer or your arms falling off.”
    A better answer? “Let’s address your concerns one at a time. Maybe you could write a list, then we can come up with a solution for each one.”
    Or simply listen, without criticism. Some people just really need an ear to dump in.
  3. How about fatigue? Do you tell someone with depression that he shouldn’t be tired? That he should get to bed earlier? No, silly. He knows he should get to bed earlier; worrying about how he needs to sleep is one of the things that kept him up.
    Validate the feelings of the tired person. A passable idea might be to describe a cool idea you read recently -about writing all of one’s concerns on a paper by the side of the bed at night. Maybe you have a really boring book you could lend him.
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  4. Let’s say she is feeling poorly about herself. Her self-esteem is in the toilet of the deep, dark dungeon of the evil underworld troll king’s nephew. Do not advise a person with depressive tendencies that, “You’re a great person,” or how many talents she has and how she has the potential for so much more.
    Telling a depressed person of wasted potential will bring on a crying fit. You’re just backing up the mean little voice already in her head (herself).
    One of the best things to say is that you like her, that you like a specific thing about her (say, her ability to come up with Britney Spears song lyrics at the drop of a hat). Try to turn the focus on something else, especially if that is on a happy memory.
  5. When someone with depressive tendencies withdraws from life, reach out. You need to act if he does one of the following: not answering texts, appearing less-frequently online, and even telling people, “Goodbye.”
    If you can’t go, try to get his family or other friends to physically check in. Even a vocal phone call is better than a text. A visit is better than an e-mail. A long, in-person conversation is better than a social media message.

I have a difficult time with about everything in life due to a negative perspective and very little self-motivation. I need my husband, my few friends, and my family. Theirs are the hands that reach into the cave of my mind and pull me to safety.

With specific directions like this, we can work toward loving the hand that reaches. At the very least, we won’t feel like slapping it away.

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The Long Road to Betterment

As human beings, regardless of our backgrounds, we’ve become conditioned to evaluate our success in life based on the monetary value of our material possessions. The impact of this trending train of thought has become detrimental to our society, and is especially toxic for those of us who already struggle to find our sense of selves, our true value.

This shift in humanity, in my opinion, grew exponentially with the rise of the technological era. While it’s existed within us for several generations, it’s much more prominent in the last few. And while recently there has been a small faction bringing minimalist living to light, currently more than ever we have become obsessed with the idea of owning the best and newest things.

This has been a difficult post to write because of my own current struggles on the topic. Where is the line between valuing possessions over what really matters, and yearning for a sense of security you’ve never known? There’s obviously financial security in the way of assets, and then there’s having a stable life. Who’s to say when we’ve taken it too far, and how do we separate the wants from the true needs?

I was raised as a welfare baby, my mom on social security, section 8, food stamps, and I’ve had government provided health insurance for my entire life. My mom still survives on the programs, and now I’m raising my daughter on food stamps and free health care as well. It’s not a choice, because while my husband works, it’s not enough, and I can’t bring in enough money with my disabilities to make the pain they’d cause worth the while.

I’m sure my mother wasn’t proud to need all that assistance to raise me, and I’m certainly not proud either. We recently began trying to apply for home loans, as we’ve both lived under mostly slum lords for our entire lives and we want better for our daughter. Long and painfully disappointing story short, we got denied this week and it broke me.

This switch has gone off inside of me, making me feel guilt, inferiority, and judgment towards myself. I swore I’d never raise my child on welfare, but this was before I knew of my physical restraints. Despite my lack on control in the matter, there’s a certain self resentment that comes with that, a sense of worthlessness. I thought I’d found the perfect home for us, actually allowed myself to get excited for once, and now someone else’s family will fill the home.

It’s been an incredibly trying week, with tensions always escalating and tensions always rising due to our current crappy living situation, and I haven’t felt this defeated in a really long time. Especially for those of us with mental illness, stability is incredibly imperative to our success, and it’s my firm belief that if I can finally achieve stability, maybe I can finally begin my journey to betterment.

What I thought was one step closer turned out to be two steps back, but I must still press on. I have to believe that there’s more left in life for me than just the current chapter, that the book will have at least a relatively halpy ending. Here’s to everyone else who’s had a disappointing week or felt broken by something outside of your control. Life gave us lemons, so I guess we’re making lemonade, no matter how sweet or sour it tastes.

Finding Hope, Sharing Hope

With my most recent medication adjustment, and focus on self care, I find myself feeling better and better each day.  I am so grateful that things were easily remedied this time.  I know, from experience, that things can be much worse.

This causes me to reflect back on where I’ve been and see how far I have come.  In doing so, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  Where once, not too many years ago,  I was encompassed by darkness and despair, I feel now the light of hope, happiness and optimism.  I plan to enjoy this as much as possible.  But, as I think back to that time of darkness, I can still remember the agonizing pain, and the overwhelming hopelessness.  I can recall how afraid I was of what was happening and how heavy the burden felt.  I remember wondering day after day if I would ever really get better–if I would ever really be me again.  I felt so removed from the me I knew and understood that it felt as if my brain was hijacked or taken over by something else.  It was akin to a novice fisherman, accustomed to being in calm waters, suddenly transported into a great storm in the middle of the ocean–without bearings and with no proper equipment to survive.  I truly cannot believe how far I have come, since then.  I learned to navigate that storm.  And eventually, the waters calmed and I could see the light coming over the horizon again.  I know storms will come and go–I can be sure of that.  But for now, I am doing ok.

I can remember being in the midst of all of this, and being crushed time and time again by waves of hopelessness.  I searched, I prayed; I tried the best I could to get through minute by minute.  My only comfort and hope, in these dark times, came from God.  He was with me and helped me through every step. I know, that it is because of Him, that I have come this far.

I learned through this process that hope is the antidote to despair. So I did everything I could to strengthen my hope.  First and foremost, because Jesus Christ is the source of all hope, I did everything in my power to move closer to Him.  I studied His words, I prayed and I tried to keep Him in my thoughts.  As I did so, I was strengthened in my hope and was eventually able to overcome my despair.

I know that this idea does not appeal to everyone and so I also include some other strategies for growing the hope within.

As I tried to move through this pain, I also clung to stories of hope–accounts of people overcoming great hardships.  These I soaked up like water into parched, desert ground.  I clung to the hope that I could overcome as they had.  It didn’t really matter what the hardship in the story was–be it overcoming cancer, learning to live with a physical disability, enduring chronic pain or the loss of a loved one–I felt if they could overcome, then somehow, I could too.  I felt (and still do) that these great storms come to each of us in different ways, but come they do.  I feel this is something we all have in common: suffering and hardship, and the sometimes desperate hope that we will be able to overcome.

So, because I have felt of agony and despair, like many of you–I feel a desire to help others.  My utmost hope is that I can support, even in some small way, another person trying to get through life’s storms–whatever those may be.  I’m still in the boat and the storms still come.  I am no expert fisherman, but I am a fisherman who wants to help others in rough seas.  To those in the midst of deep depression, despair, bipolar disorder or whatever it may be, hang on to hope.  There are so many who have been where you are and have pulled through to brighter times.

So, find hope.  Find it anywhere you can.  See it in the stories of how others have overcome.  See it in the stubborn flower that thrives in cracked concrete.  Find it in the source of all hope: Jesus Christ, Himself.  As you find it, cling to it.  Make growing your hope the quest of each day.  And as you begin to overcome, minute by minute, day by day, share that hope with others.

Juggling, Hiding, Saying No

When there is a relatively calm week with nothing outside of the ordinary happening, I can easily handle a hiccup or two. Now, if you expect me to be able to juggle multiple situations at one time, I may start to withdraw. Like a turtle drawing his head into his shell, I close myself off.

The static in my brain starts to send out sparks, misfires occur, rapid thinking, jumping to conclusions, and hopeless impressions wander through me. You can’t do this! Just quit! My inner demon whispers. This advice is so tempting. Quitting is easy. It might sting for a while, but the wound heals pretty quickly in most cases.

There are times when we pile on too much, and saying NO can be healthy, and part of self-care. However, we must be aware when we raise our hands in surrender to soon. Trying to avoid something that is demanding, or labor intense, we might turn our head at a challenge before we find out what we are capable of.

It’s too difficult, it’s too hard, I can’t do this! There are too many things going on at one time. I can’t juggle all of this at once!

Excuse me for throwing out a term so loosely, because the truth is I do not meditate in the traditional sense. I have tried, it’s just not my dish. When things pile up and start to crash down upon me however, I do say to myself, “It’s time to meditate on this.” To me this is taking a break, a step back. Thinking out all the logical options, and most importantly coming up with boundaries and goals. Breathe through it. If a situation is elevated beyond a determined margin, then maybe it is time to make an exit. Until then, it’s time to stick with it!

I find that when more than one task (even if a pleasant) falls on me, I start to get a little erratic. I haven’t been able to stop this from happening, but I do recognize it more quickly than in the past. I’m not sure if this is my anxious tendencies or just a normal human response to a lot going on.

Continued stress can do horrible things to our mind and body. Not accomplishing goals or backing out of a commitment can also wreak havoc on our inner self. Sometimes we need a little stress to propel us forward. Understanding our limits is important. More important yet, is pushing these limits in a healthy manner so we can gain achievement and self-worth.

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