My Journey to Stability, Pt. 3

by Shara Adams

A circle of blurred faces surrounded me, all talking at once. The level of chaos outpaced my own mind and I struggled to keep track of what was going on. Drugged and intoxicated beyond capable cognition, the world began to slip away once again. In the mess of voices, the realization of my fragile state caught the action of the paramedics and I was whisked down the stairs from the apartment to the ambulance. Because of the design of our place, a stretcher was worthless. They half carried, and half walked me down the precarious stairway. Once I was inside the bus, one of the paramedics joined me and began a pleasant conversation with me.

Blonde hair and blue eyes watched me intently. It may have been my lost mind, but at that moment, he had the most beautiful eyes that I had ever seen. Smiling, I was lost in his hypnotizing gaze. His voice was soft and inviting. I felt like I could listen to it forever, and I did listen to it the whole way to the emergency room. He conversed with me to keep me awake and cognitive of what was around me, and it worked perfectly. It also kept my mind off the fact my husband had not come with me. I did not notice this fact in the middle of everything going on; he was completely absent from my side.

Once inside the ER, I was forced to drink charcoal from a small cup, and it did not take long for it to make a reappearance. It was absolutely disgusting, and my toxic stomach contents were having none of it. Frustrated nurses yelled at me for throwing it up and then gave me another cup – but I never touched it to my lips. Without something to focus on, I was slipping away from the bright lights of the room. Metal walls of the elevator were my final memory before losing consciousness. I have no recollection of being in the ICU or being ‘asleep’. No dreams or thoughts; it was as if I went to bed and woke up the next morning but waking up this time was a much different experience.

Stirring in the hospital bed, my eyes opened several days after my arrival. I felt lost and confused at my surroundings, but my eyes fell on a familiar face and relief washed over me. I am sure she felt the swell of relief as well. My mom had driven about 740 miles in eight hours to be by my side. We later calculated that she had averaged about 95 mph the entirety of the drive, never being pulled over. There was always a driver going faster than she was, and they were the ones to get caught. Her foot never left the gas pedal, and I will never make fun of her panic.

Once awake and somewhat aware of where I was, I noticed the lack of a certain person from the room: my husband. This was something my mom attempted to fix, but it was only mildly successful. He came to visit me once during my entire stay, but never said a word and refused to look at me. He sat on my bed and I rubbed his back, but nothing I did to interact with the stone-faced body made any difference. His blatant resentment was more than I could overcome. I began to wonder if I went too far to prove my point, but it also seemed to be working.

The chaos from the apartment had compartmentalized in my mind, blurry and distant memories, just like that night.

by Shara Adams

For more stories by Shara Adams, visit http://pennedinwhite.com.

My Journey to Stability, Pt. 2

“…you’re the spawn of the Devil!” 

After watching the pictures fly across the room, my husband turned back to his screen, acting unfazed by my actions or words.  His response, or lack thereof, only confirmed my decision; I had to reveal him to the world as the true demon he was to me. Red flags waved the last four years, but I brushed them away, creating excuses for his behavior and words. He was a narcissistic bastard taking advantage of my ignorance. For all those years, I blamed myself for everything he did said, convincing myself it was my fault for the way he treated me. I needed to learn my place in his sick world. Being young and naive, I did not realize how I was being manipulated by someone who was supposed to love me.  

I wanted to scream, but the sound never left my throat. Instead, I staggered over to my chair, sitting down with an obscene lack of grace and nearly toppling over. My desk was a mess, but what I was looking for was within easy reach. The Jameson thudded against the wood as I snatched up a white bottle. Effexor was the anti-depressant I was prescribed after a questionnaire was given to me for the Bipolar diagnostic process in 2007, of which it was determined I had Major Depression, not Bipolar Disorder. Several attempts to find a medication were made to help me feel somewhat normal. None of them worked, but I stuck with Effexor despite the roller coaster. 

By Shara Adams

I did not feel suicidal, but the world needed to open its eyes and see him for who he was. The world needed to see me, to save me from the hell I was living. Rising to my feet, I opened the white bottle and poured out a handful pills. I reached for the Jameson without counting the capsules and set my reserve; I knew what I had to do to save myself and destroy him. My shoulders rolled back with determination, but my thoughts remained a jumbled mess from the alcohol and my inundated emotions. The world was spinning, and I did not know what to think or feel. All I knew was I had to escape the pathetic excuse of a man. 

“Is this what you wanted?” 

Turning to face me, I smirked with satisfaction. I had his full undivided attention, for once. The impact I planned on having with my actions, played over and over in my head. I did not know what was going to happen, and my mind did not consider the consequences which were possible. Blinded by the potential freedom, I could not back away from my decision. As I held the pills in my hand with a drink in the other, I threw them all to the back of my throat and followed them with the last of the Jameson.

Relief washed over me as I sat back down, ignoring him. I felt I had done the right thing, but after several minutes, the world started to disappear and I began to question myself – like always. I tried to blame it on the entire bottle of liquor, which I had consumed in a matter of a few hours. About ten minutes later, a knock on our apartment door brought the light back, but I could not move. Before I reached the count of three, five to six people swarmed into our small space and surrounded me both physically and verbally. I was confused as to who they were, why they were here, and what they were asking, but I responded to their probing questions as best I could. The realization hit me like a brick after several questions: they were paramedics.

My husband had called 911. For once in his life, he may have done the right thing.

By Shara Adams

More stories can be found at pennedinwhite.com

My Journey to Stability, Pt. 1

Excitedly, I join this blog’s wonderful team. I have been passionate about mental health for many years, and I hope to be able to share my journey as I continue to navigate through life with a mental illness. I was diagnosed with Bipolar II in 2009 (also in 2004, but I was a minor) and just like many others, my road has not been easy. I am a survivor of domestic abuse, so the hurdles I have jumped remind me of what I am capable of overcoming, no matter what life can dish out. Though I plan to write a memoir of all my experiences, here I would like to simply share my road to stability and beyond. It is not a lighthearted tale at first, but it is an important one. Just as the past is important, so is the future. We are amazing and the world needs to know all our stories.

My Journey to Stability, Pt. 1

With a bottle of Jameson in one hand, wedding pictures in the other, and a kitchen knife at my side, tears ran down my cheeks and frantic thoughts pounded in my skull. I sat, knees to chest on the bed, contemplating my next move. After being together for five years, I was beginning to understand the danger of our year-old marriage. You were an evil entity in my life and even my drunk mind believed the thoughts whispered in its ear. I spent more time intoxicated than sober when I was around you or thinking about you. The things you did to me, or made me do, were not normal for a healthy relationship.

After a Colorado courthouse wedding, we decided it was time to move to the state we shared our vows. I found a job before we moved, and you were taking your remote job with you to our new home. If I drank a lot before we moved, it only increased ten-fold with our arrival in the mountains. You were either emotionally absent or degrading me enough to force me to try and forget your words. It was as if our vows, the year before, meant nothing to you. Perhaps they did not, and never had, but I was determined to keep up my end of the bargain. I loved you, but I questioned my sanity because of it.

Another swig of liquor and my eyes thrummed with intoxication. Our blurry smiles made no sense to me as my gaze passed from distorted faces to the shiny metal of the knife. No, it was not for you. It was never for you because I was always the problem…not you. You made me believe I was destroying our marriage, not your flirting, sexual escapades, or even an unhealthy relationship with bottom shelf vodka. At an impasse, I sat on the bed for close to an hour, trying to sort through shifting thoughts and emotions. In my heart, I knew what I had to do, but my courage hesitated as I left the knife on the bed and stumbled to the living room, where you sat at your computer.

My face was set with a determination and anger I had never felt before. Perhaps it was a spark of hatred, but at the time, such a notion was wishful thinking. With the bottle in one hand, and the photo album in the other, I made myself heard. The words poured from my lips with ease, as if I had been wanting to say them for years and had lacked the courage before. I felt no regret and stood tall with a newfound strength. I watched the pictures float to the floor, smiling with a grim understanding of my next move.

“…you’re the spawn of the Devil!”

Your Shadow By Shara Adams

(More stories can be found at pennedinwhite.com)

All pictures by Shara Adams.

Appetite for Destruction

Bipolar is a debilitating brain-illness.  Rapid Cycling is even worse.  After my traumatic experience, I was determined to be in control of myself and my body from there on out.  Unfortunately, that took a destructive path.  I was very promiscuous and did everything I could to get the attention of older teenage boys to seduce and have sex with.   A twisted way to be in control, but I was calling the shots and it felt good.  I was out partying all the time, drinking, smoking pot, and taking pills (no idea what they were).  I was living a reckless lifestyle to say the least.

This is me being hypomanic and trying to be seductive during a hypomanic state
 Me at 15 years old during a hypomanic state

I was depressed, but I think I was also hypomanic, which is called a mixed state.  My depressed state materialized as anger and terrible judgement.  My hypomania resulted in little need for sleep and feeling indestructible.  I felt like I could do anything and had no regard for what anyone thought.  Being in a mixed state is not a great combination, especially with alcohol and drugs in the mix.  I struggled in school exponentially and skipped a lot of school by signing my dad’s signature to the excuses (I had perfected his signature).  I worshiped metal hair bands (Motley Crue, Whitesnake, Guns n Roses, Metallica, and Poison, just to name a few) and my goal was to get the attention of any & every guy I could.  I didn’t seem to have a problem in that area considering I had built up quite a reputation.  I suddenly had an appetite for sex.  I don’t know how many people I slept with in that 6 month period, if I had to guess I would say 10?  Not something I’m proud of now, but I wore it like a badge at the time.  I was in control and that’s all that mattered.

Me at 15 years old with Motley Crue banner
 Me at 15 years old in my room

I didn’t have many close friendships with girls at this time, except for one friend that I happen to still be friends with today (love you MW).  My relationships during this time were more superficial and built on partying.  I obviously was not in a good state and it was catching up to me.  I was severely depressed at the end of this period in mid spring.  No longer was I angry, I was sad and wanting companionship.  I was suicidal and had thought of many ways to end my life.  I felt like nothing, didn’t like myself, had a great void in my soul and didn’t understand why I was even on this Earth 😦

Thankfully, I met someone, who for whatever reason understood me in a way no one else had even tried to.  My first boyfriend who I will refer to as X.  (Remember X for later on in this blog).  I was elated to be with one person.  I was still depressed, but it felt different with someone to actually talk to.  I would bounce back and forth between being hypomanic and depressed, but he seemed to be able to ride the roller-coaster.  Our relationship was fast & furious…

Some people might ask, “Where was your God while all of this was happening?” and to that end I would simply say, I didn’t know him yet.  Despite me not knowing Him, He knew me and was with me!  He carried me every step of the way through my brokenness, even if I didn’t know it at the time!!  He knew I was a survivor and a fighter and that I would eventually surrender to Him!

1 Corinthians 10:13

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Until next time, be blessed and be divine!

When Mania Gets in the Way

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Last week (June 10th-16th) was a tough one. I was picking up my nieces at an early time about an hour away at the airport, and I had to drive my best friend up to pick them up.

I tried my best to get all my school work done before the week started, and then proceeded to stay up for about 32 hours straight so I could sleep Tuesday afternoon, and wake Wednesday at around 2 am morning refreshed and ready to travel.

Part of the issue is that I generally get to bed between 12 am and 2 am, so it was impossible to try and sleep without being exhausted. If I sleep at 2am and had to wake at 2 am therein lies a significant problem. I thought the plan made sense. Sleep 12 hours and wake up better rested and then Thursday was a later pick up around 10 am so I can sleep at my reasonable time. The problem? I never anticipate that staying up for that many hours is inviting mania into my life. Mania is precisely what happened, and it was not pretty.

First off, it was a crazy week. Full-time graduate student, working on my next fantasy fiction novel writing 5,000 words a day and finishing the second edits of my book that is in the publishing phase so that I can reach the final edits. All these things got done at the expense of my mental health and my work for the week. I bombed both assignments, something I have never done as an undergraduate (I graduated with 3.92-grade average) or in the three-plus courses of my graduate studies.

I did what I always do, overextended. It is possible that I was already manic. It tends to happen more during the summer months that the winter months. But, no matter how I slice it, mania and depression took me over, and I let it get to me without knowing. It took this week, and learning of the failure of the last week, to hit rock bottom. I considered quiting this semester. I looked into alternatives, and I think I found some solutions which will allow me to stay in school. It would be all bad to quit this semester.

I got back to work the last two day finishing my paper, and I am hoping that things will get better from here with my editing, which was the major issue last week. Mania tends to sneak up on me, and when it gets too much, I crash. I am a fighter, and I will continue to do what I do best–all that I can to be the best mental health me.

Stay strong in the fight,

Always Keep Fighting

James

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The Unfettered Insanity of Unmedicated Bipolar Disorder

My wife says she can always tell when I go off my medication. She says I stop making sense, speak gibberish, and do and say things that are utterly irrational. I say she can tell because when I’m off my meds, I feel nonsensical, disconnected and irrational. I’m perfectly aware of the inane babble that comes out of me when I’m unmedicated – and yet I allow it to happen anyway.

I’m on four different antipsychotics and antidepressants to treat my disorder. I’ve been diagnosed with Bipolar Type 2, which is where you have very mild manic episodes alternating with extremely severe depression. The medications help to keep me on an even keel, even if I do still swing toward the depressive end of the spectrum more often than not, and when I’m consistently medicated I can function, hold normal conversations, feel motivation, and generally get through the day.

So why on earth would I trade that for what is, essentially, bouts of total insanity? I’ll give you an example: the other night we were preparing dinner, and I couldn’t wash and recycle a plastic container. I just … couldn’t. To an outside observer (i.e. to my family), it must have looked like I was batshit crazy – I babbled about how I couldn’t wash it, that the most I could do was throw it away, and then I started pacing the kitchen, turning around every two steps. I probably tore at my hair a little, and eventually ended up on the couch in the dark while my wife screamed at how lazy I was being.

Believe me, it wasn’t laziness.

There are a whole slew of reasons why I do this to myself. Ironically, none of them are because I think I’m better when I am medicated – even though that’s a commonly cited reason for patients to stop. The most common reason – and perhaps the least sensible – is that I’m afraid to run out.

That’s right – I stop taking my meds so that I don’t run out of my meds.

This is the kind of train of thought that probably makes perfect sense to a lot of you – and absolutely no sense to anyone whose never had to take psychiatric medications before. I mean, you wouldn’t stop taking your heart medicine for the same reason, would you? But for some reason it seems, in the moment, perfectly reasonable to skip a day or a week so that I don’t run out.

Sometimes there are more valid reasons to stop. Most recently, I stopped taking them for about two weeks because I couldn’t afford to renew the prescription. Now that’s kind of a shitty position to be in, but the truth is that I didn’t have the money to pay for the medications – partly because my most recent paycheck got screwed up, but also because I do sometimes spend money on things I don’t need (mostly coffee).

But wow – the difference between medication and going au naturel is itself insane. As in, within a few days in either direction I notice a huge difference. When I go off them, I start to feel anxious, unsettled, and completely disconnected from reality. Then the depression sinks in, and the despair … or sometimes the anger and rage. Sometimes I sit in a corner and cry; other times I rush around madly between tasks, unable to start or complete any of them. More often, I sleep, because it’s the only way I can escape the madness.

After a few days, I feel generally unsettled and disconnected; after a few weeks, I feel totally insane. After a month or more, I start to become suicidal.

And the difference when I go back on them … within a few days I feel stable, in control, and able to do most anything. I might still not want to do anything, but at least I can make myself do it.

I know that this constant cycle of going on and off my meds is really, really bad for me, but I just can’t seem to help it. I don’t ever mean to stop taking my meds; it just happens. And when it does, I feel so out of control that it’s hard to find the willpower to go back on them. Sometimes even the effort of taking the top off the pill bottle is just too much.

I hate feeling out of control, but I do it anyway. It’s damaging my brain, but I do it anyway. It’s a vicious cycle, and I honestly don’t know if it’s one I’ll ever get out of.

For now, I’ll just have to go and take my pills.

What is Cyclothymia?

I was asked recently to talk about cyclothymia and to talk about how this falls under the Bipolar spectrum.

I have never experienced cyclothymia, my mood swings have always on the extreme depression and manic sides, what I do know is that cyclothymia is a milder version of Bipolar disorder. From what I have gathered from others that deal with cyclothymia is that depressive episodes are mild and never go into full-blown depressive episodes. On the mania side, the manic episodes are considered symptomatic of hypomania which a milder form of mania.

From what I have read over the years is that cyclothymia is rare because it often leads to a diagnosis of Bipolar One or Bipolar Two. As with any type of mental illness, it is imperative to seek treatment if you believe that you suffer from cyclothymia. What are some of the symptoms of cyclothymia? They are similar to most mental illnesses.

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Feeling tearful
  • Sleep disturbances – sleeping much more or much less than usual
  • Restlessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Fatigue
  • Concentration problems
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Loss of interest in activities once considered pleasurable
  • Weight changes – due to eating much more or much less than usual
  • Lack of motivation
  • Impaired judgment, planning, or problem-solving abilities
  • Low self-esteem
  • Pessimism
  • Loneliness
  • Submissiveness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Difficulty handling conflict
  • Lacking meaning and purpose in life

That is about the limit of my expertise when it comes to cyclothymia. I would be very interested to hear from any of my follower’s whos diagnosis is cyclothymia.

Stay Strong in the Fight.

Always Keep Fighting

James

Photo Credit:

unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt

unsplash-logoIssam Hammoudi

Symptom Credits from https://www.psycom.net/depression.central.cyclothymia.html

What Do You Do When You Feel the Depression Returning?

The title is not a rhetorical question… Bipolar folks: what do you do when you feel the depression is returning?

I always thought I was a naturally upbeat, productive person, who just periodically went through some rough patches.  The rough patches never seemed inevitable though; it was just unfortunate when they happened – and then I got over them.

Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder a little over a year ago changed all that.  For the first time I knew the depression was inevitable – It wasn’t just a quirk that everything fell apart periodically; it was part of who I am.

As someone who is more or less newly diagnosed as bipolar I’m curious as to what some of the “veterans” out there have discovered – How do you know the depression is returning?  And more importantly, what do you do about it?

For me, I don’t know the depression is returning until I’m already deep within it.  For me that looks like not caring about anything, and losing the will to do whatever project my mania had me engrossed in.  My hypomanic bestowed superpowers disappear slowly and subtly; perhaps over a week?  Maybe two?

I take medication.  I go to therapy.  But trying to halt depression, or even just slow it down feels about as useful as trying to block a river with my hands.

Continue reading

Bipolar Disorder Described in a Word: Engrossing

This is the first part of a series that will be featured on my blog that describes what bipolar disorder feels like to me.  In each post I will explore a single feature of bipolar disorder as I have experienced it.

Today, I want to discuss how I find bipolar disorder to be engrossing.

Now first things first, engrossing seems like a strange word to use to describe a mental illness.  Engrossing carries a sort of positive connotation, as in the phrase “the book was engrossing.”  If you describe a book in that fashion you’re probably recommending it.

Dialogue not altered in any way.

So am I “recommending” bipolar disorder?

Well no, of course not.  When I say engrossing, I mean as in this definition stolen from google: “absorbing all one’s attention or interest.”

I suffer form type 2 bipolar depression, which means I periodically experience a hypomanic state.  The typical reader of this blog knows what that is, but for those who may not be aware, hypomania is sort of like diet-mania.  If you don’t know what mania is, science has a GIF for you:

To be fair, that’s the way I look before eating chicken wings regardless of whether I’m (hypo)manic or not.

So anyways, back to engrossing.

I experience two different kinds of “engrossed” behavior, which I’ll call micro-engrossed, and macro-engrossed.  I’ll demonstrate what I mean with a couple examples:

“Micro-Engrossing”

Micro-engrossing is what I call it when my mind very intensely focuses on something for a short period of time (1 – 5 minutes), while simultaneously blocking out everything else.

The old house my wife and I lived in had a brick wall in the living room.  One night my wife was talking about her day, but I couldn’t hear a single word she was saying because I was micro-engrossed in – you guessed it – the brick wall (I didn’t say it made sense.  Remember – mental illness).

This is a slob’s an artist’s rendering of that brick wall:

Bricks

Pretty much what you expected.

But as my wife’s talking, my hyper-brain becomes completely engrossed in that stupid brick wall.  Soon my brain starts seeing patterns… Look at that diamond!

unmarked diamond

ooooooooooohhhhhh, DIAMOND!

Now I think she’s talking about work… or maybe she’s talking about her mom.  I don’t know, because I wonder how many bricks are in that diamond… better start counting:

count the bricks

Can you tell I was one of the cool kids yet?

“… it’s frustrating because it seems like my boss doesn’t listen to me.  I get the feeling that she doesn’t respect…”

That took too long.  I wonder if there’s a faster way to determine how many bricks are in a diamond.  Is there a formula that can be applied that would scale to arbitrarily large diamonds?  There has to be…

Bricks Diamond

Maybe it’s related to the number of bricks at the widest point of the diamond?

“…I was asked to pick up a shift this weekend so I need you to watch the girls, is that OK with…”

OF COURSE!  NOW I SEE!  The number of bricks in the diamond is equal to the number of bricks at the widest point SQUARED!  5 x 5 is 25!  And it scales to arbitrarily large diamonds!  

Squares

Of course!  A diamond is just a square tilted to the side… 

I’m a genius!  I wonder what other patterns ther-

“Matt!  Were you listening to a word I just said?”

“… yes?”

“What did I say?”

“…”

[Sleeps on couch, gets to stare at brick wall all night.]

I’ve summed up micro-engrossing in one, glorious GIF:

I wonder if there are any patterns in the boards of this basketball court?

“Macro-Engrossing”

Macro-engrossing is micro-engrossing just scaled up.  It’s when my brain becomes fixated on a problem over the course of weeks or even months.  It’s not as acute as micro-engrossing; I’m capable of carrying on a perfectly healthy conversation with my wife while engaging in this hypomanic behavior, but it’s always in the back of my mind.

Take this for example:

During a particularly strong hypomanic episode that I experienced last year while on vacation in Maine, I got it into my mind that I was going to single-handedly program a massively complex turn-based strategy video game.  Civilization, but BETTER!

Well, in order to start, I’d need to randomly generate a two dimensional game map.

Now this isn’t a blog about computer programming and algorithms, so I’m not going to elaborate much more on the particulars of how one goes about doing this.  If you’re curious, it implements a modified version of Conway’s Game of Life which you can see described by the man himself, John Conway, in this wonderful video.

The point is I found myself consumed by this problem while on this vacation.  While my family was relaxing and enjoying a well-earned week off, my mind was humming on overdrive – determined to find the answers!

Ultimately, this phenomenon is the inspiration for the name of my blog, Loudest Minds; a reference to the disquiet of my mind – the constant racing of thoughts that characterizes the manic and hypomanic episodes of many people suffering from bipolar disorder.

I used to think of this engrossing behavior as a gift; a means to achieve moments of brilliance.  But I’ve come to realize that mania is not a superpower, it’s a curse; because as soon as I solved the problem that had consumed the entirety of my mind’s resources for weeks, the depression returned, and I abandoned the game like so many other projects before it.

So that’s how I find bipolar disorder to be engrossing.  I hope you were thoroughly engrossed by this blog post!  If you were, share it with your friends!

If you suffer from bipolar disorder, do you experience a similar phenomenon?  I’d love to hear about it! Continue reading

Challenge Yourself! – Find 5 Meaningful Things To Do

Ever get so caught up in the day to day crap-you-have-to-do that you lose sight of what you actually need to do… or what might actually enrich your life?

Of course you do!  If you don’t, you’re probably kidding yourself.  That, or you need to immediately publish a book enlightening us on your secret – probably make a million dollars while you’re at it.

Today I was trying to distract my mind from the typical stress at work (and procrastinate from doing the crap-I-had-to-do items detailed on the to-do list sitting on my desk) so I started cleaning and organizing my office.

After reaching the bottom of a formerly bottomless desk drawer, I found a note from my predecessor.  It was a to-do list filled with 5 mundane tasks that were not unlike the ones I was myself putting off that moment.

The note was unremarkable in every way but one – the date; it was dated from just before he went out for the last time.  You see, his cancer had returned, and this time it would not be beat.  He passed away in the months that followed.

It made me think about what I was doing in that moment – just going about the motions of the day, looking at the clock, wishing it was over.  What if this was it?  What if I was running out of time and I didn’t even know it?

How many of you are doing the same thing?  How many of you are wishing for the hours to slip by so you can do something that’s actually meaningful to you?  What is actually important to you?  Challenge yourself to make a list of what you actually need to do.

I scribbled off the list sitting on my desk and made a new one:

5 Things I Actually Need To-Do:

#1 – Help My Kids Find Their Passion.

There is one really important word in that goal – “their”. I want to help them find their passion, not mine.

I love football. I’d love to have my kid in the NFL.  But I have two daughters that probably aren’t going to share that goal.  Also I don’t see many women in the NFL in 2018.

This was something I think I missed as a child; I never found something that I was really into that I could also do for a living. It wasn’t until after college that I really started developing true passions other than drinking beer and spending money.  What a waste!

Also, I think it’s really important that kids have at least something they know they’re interested in before school’s over.  Otherwise how the hell are they supposed to decide what they’re going to do after high school?

Here’s what the decision making process looked like for me:

Dad: Alright, here’s a book of college majors, you need to pick one.

Me: Wait, what?

Dad: Yep. You’re 18, and it’s time for you to decide what you want to do for the next 40-50 years.

Me: Can I just play X-Box?

Dad: Nope.

Me: Ok, let me see that book then…

Me: [Flips through book of alphabetized majors, loses interest at the letter ‘C’]

Me: Chemistry sounds good!

Dad: Excellent.

Me: [Wastes next 10 years of life stumbling down misery-path]

I really, really want to avoid that, which I know can be difficult.  I know my parents tried to get me into things and it was me that resisted.  I know you can’t make your kids do anything once they get to a certain age, but I hope I’ll be able to help them see how what they are interested in can become a career.

Here’s an example that would have worked for me. I’m really into video games.  That’s one of the only things I was consistently into growing up.  That sounds like a horrible waste of time, right?

Cut to 10 years later and I discover a passion for computer programming. Now I program video games in my spare time for fun.  Imagine if I had the creativity and vision to see this as a possibility when I was 18?  I could be doing this for a living right now, and I would have loved it!  Sometimes you need to be creative.

#2 – Pay for Kid’s College.

My wife’s parents paid for her to go to school, a generosity for which I am extremely grateful. We bought our first home when I was 24, and she was 23, because of the financial boost her parents were able to give us after we graduated.  We had an incredible head-start.

I graduated with $25,000 in debt, which is probably pretty low since I went to a public school. $300 dollars a month to student loan debt payments really sucks when you’re 22 – A huge percentage of your paycheck simply disappears.

Thankfully, I actually have a pretty decent head-start plan on this. It’s called the Stop-Obsessively-Buying-Ridiculously-Irresponsible-amounts-of-Ethanol (that’s alcohol for you – remember, chemistry major)-This-Year also known as SOBRIETY.

The math looks something like this:

$20 dollars per week for margaritas on date night.

$35 dollars per week for beer.

+             $45 dollars for Woodford Reserve because I’m one of those classy alcoholics.


$100 dollars per week

×             52 weeks in a year


$5200 per year on alcohol.

×             18 years


$93,600 saved over 18 year period.

That’s a decent head start!

#3 – Finish One of Those Damn Mania-Projects!

If you suffer from bipolar disorder you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re manic, or hypomanic, and you’ve fallen in love with… something. You have all this energy and you’ve decided to direct it towards writing a book, or starting a blog, or making movies, or learning an instrument, or learning to paint, or going back to school… or all of those things at once!

The problem is that bipolar disorder is a cruel mistress, and now two weeks later your depression is back and you have absolutely no interest in doing any of those things anymore. So what was just days ago an all-consuming passion project is left abandoned and incomplete.

I’ve spoken at some length about how mania or hypomania may be thought of by some as a blessing, but I’ve started to view it as a curse.  In my days or weeks of depression immediately following a hypomanic period I find myself surrounded by husks of beautiful, useful, and creative things that I was only able to take halfway to completion.  The sense of failure does nothing to help the depression.

Just once, I’d like to finish something. Write a book, learn a skill, finish programming that video game – anything!

I can say I have found one way to scratch this itch; break it down into small, bite size pieces! When you get the bug to start writing, instead of only working on that 100,000 word manuscript, why don’t you write a blog post!  I finish those all the time!

#4 – Travel Abroad With Family

I’ve been to two countries in my entire life. The United States, since I happen to have been born here, and Canada, since I happen to have grown up about 30 minutes from the border.

I never had a strong desire to travel (or really, to do anything) when I had the (relatively) easy opportunity to do so in college. Many of my friends did however, and it always seemed like a great adventure that enriched their lives.

I’d love to do this with my family, or if we can’t all go, I’d like to send the kids when they’re young, in college, and life is still (relatively) simple.

#5 – Start a Business

Is this every manic person’s dream, or is it just mine?

Imagine taking your energy, and your sudden, intense focus on something, and getting so good at it that you can actually start a business around that thing. Then you can screw the man and ride off into the sunset!

Ok, so I understand in reality that starting a business isn’t actually easy, and the whole riding off into the sunset thing is not likely to happen, but can’t a guy dream?

So that’s it!  That’s my What-I-Actually-Want-To-Do list – my 5 Meaningful Things.  I challenge you all to do the same thing!

Unfortunately, reality always seems to get in the way.  Speaking of which, these expense reports aren’t going to approve themselves. Back to it…