Music

There is a power in music that exceeds words, actions and nearly everything else in the strata of human existence.  Music can, and does change the world on a daily basis.  I am a particular fan of instrumental music, those large orchestral pieces that give way to sweeping imagery in your mind and heart.  I believe that children should be exposed to music of all types at a young age, whether or not parents want them to be musicians or musically inclined at all.  Music just makes you feel the waves of life so much better.   The piece below, titled “Honor,” speaks to me in a way I can barely describe with words.  There is so much going on in this piece, such a story that is being told … please do your day a favor and click below to listen to it once or twice:

I literally LOVE that piece of music.

When I say that music has, at times, saved my life – I mean it.  It’s pulled me from ledges, both literal, and figurative over the last six months and I’m glad for it.  This piece of music fills me with hope and gives place for the wounds in my soul to hide and recover.

What I’m learning is that no amount of medicine or therapy will help me/make me recover quickly.  It’s a timing thing, and the timing doesn’t even get to be all mine.  I’m largely in charge of factors, like “Do I take my medicine?” or “Do I go to therapy?”  But the timing of all of it, is still not fully my call.

And I hate that.  With the fire of 1000 suns.

Saying you don’t like the timing of something is shorthand for saying you don’t like not controlling something am I right?  That’s a lesson this 31 year old hasn’t wrapped his head around yet, and I’m almost positive will never fully do.  I’m a headstrong, obnoxious person, probably made even more so by my mania (thank you bipolar I), and I just struggle to let go, and let God drive.

It’s time to be still, and know that He’s got the wheel.

Hi, My Name is Will. I believe we’ve met?

With many apologies for the crazy run of time between posts …. I’d like to reintroduce myself.

My name is Will, and I have Bipolar I.  I’m relatively new at this, and still only six months into my diagnosis.  I struggle to see the efficacy and need for medicines – but I take mine regularly every night.  There’s a permanent alarm set in my iPhone that takes me to the medicine cabinet every night at 9:30 … and as I take those three pills, I’m left to consider the alternative.  I don’t like the regularity of it, and the having to have it.  I’m a rebel, and I like to imagine being off of it.

I also remember what it was like to be on the “other” meds; the ones that were part of the program before we settled on the current cocktail of drugs.  Those meds opened up a crater in my mind that pushed me to the edge of survival.  Those meds, let’s just say that they were the closest I’ll ever come to experiencing hell on earth.  I’m glad they’re in the rearview mirror.  So I take my meds dutifully because I’ll never go back to the “other” pills.

I have spent time in a mental health institution this year as well.  In those five days I learned more about myself than perhaps at any other time in my life – because when you can’t even open a door for yourself you’ve got lots of time to think and evaluate and find ways to cope and get better.

I have also bid farewell to my mania, that mental adrenaline that never left, until it did.  That desire to base jump every day into the corners of my life.  That need to be swinging from chandeliers all day every day, until the connecting wire broke.  I told it to leave.  I rose up and said, “No.  More.”  Here, (and it was April 7 2017) I took control of my life again, or maybe for the first time.  But dammit all – I have taken control of it.

That’s not to say there aren’t still flashes of mania.

Part of the last four weeks since I wrote has been a change in my job as well.  Yes, *humble brag alert* I have been promoted to a new role at the company I work for and it requires a lot of travel.  Travel by nature is a manic and depressive activity … all at once essentially.  When you add in that a portion of my travel is to NYC – have mercy.  Frank Sinatra was singing about manic depression when he wrote “New York, New York.”

BUT here is where it all comes together.  I’ve learned coping skills, and tools, and methods and ways to stay safe.  The moments of being out of control are shorter than they were before, and I feel better – usually – every day.

So to recap – my name is Will.  I’ve got Bipolar I, and I may hate my meds but I take them. I’ve fought all of this hard this spring and summer and I’m making progress against the terror.  I’ll never stop fighting because though the clouds may gather occasionally, the sun shines brighter by the day.

Meds

Meds.  Medicine.  Pills.

Necessary?  Likely.   Enjoyable experience taking them?  Not even close.  I’m torn with how I feel about my meds.  Unfortunately though I am in a place now where I am totally without my meds.

Part of the joys of the American medical and insurance systems is a prescription plan.  Mine calls my meds maintenance medications and says that I have to go through a 90 day supply or pay the full price.   After my last appointment with the psychiatrist I did my diligence and got set up, or so I thought.   Long story short – the fine folks in charge of my prescription plan shipped the meds to the wrong address and their processing is so slow, it will end up being two weeks off meds before I get back on.

So – two weeks without pills.  The meds that I hate and the meds that I have to have are the same pills.  What do I do?  How do I survive?  Do I NEED them to survive?

Its been interesting following the paths in my mind as the medicine has worn off and left my body.  I’ve felt the emotions closer to the surface, I’ve seen myself be closer to tears, and I’ve been acutely aware of the changes as they happen.  It’s almost as if I can feel the changes happening in my brain as they move to and fro.

It’s weird to feel some of the same feelings that I felt back in February, March and April.  It’s a source of happiness though to feel at least a little more in control.  The coping skills that I’ve learned have helped me from falling as far as before, and I’m glad to have them.

Just the same, this is tough.

Meds.  Medicine.  Pills.

Am I a pioneer?

When you hear the word pioneer, what images come to mind?

It brings to mind for me images of wagons pulled by oxen, of people pulling handcarts across the plains.  I think of people rushing across the plains for the chance of finding gold.   I think of people who didn’t speak the native language coming here in boats from Europe and beyond.  I think of people who made that first scary move into the unknown on the chance that it would be better for them and their world.

Some modern pioneers come to mind as well.  John Glenn, and Neil Armstrong among many.  Those men touched the face of God and gave a nation something to believe in.

I also think of pioneers like Dr. Kay Jameson, who I have written about befor.  She experiences the daily battles of manic depression, while being a credentialed psychiatrist and knowing EXACTLY what is happening in her brain.  But guess what – she’s lived well.  I think of Dr John Huber who is dedicating his career to ending the stigma associated with all mental illnesses.

So that brings me to the point of today’s blog.  Am I a pioneer?  Am I taking a first step into the unknown?  It’s overwhelming to think of myself in the same breath as any pioneer.  My therapist and I had a good conversation about it last week and she says that my efforts to fight this are pioneer like.  I’m engaged in this fight and I’m determined not to stop.  It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever even thought to try and do, but it’s worth every step.

When I realize that there’s a 50% chance of bpd being passed down to my kids I’m encouraged to fight harder.   To paraphrase someone much wiser than I  – I study bipolar disorder and mental illness so that my children and my children’s children may study math and science and literature and life and love in spite of what may come.

I’m not sure if my children will have to deal with this, or if I’m “pioneering” directly for them.  But I will gladly continue that first step into the darkness, with the hope that it will continue to lead to good and better things for me in my world.

Time flies.

Whether or not you’re having fun, so there’s wisdom in enjoying it.  There’s a lot of excuses to not have written for eight days – I’m busy, I’m transitioning to a new job, I’m blah blah blah-ing.  Long story short, it’s been a long seven and a half days – I miss writing here.  Self expression is without a doubt high on my list of self care.  I’d like to think that it ties in to me writing my own story with this whole experience.

I’ve read several books at this point about manic depression, and they all seem to carry common threads:  years of misdiagnosis, or years of undiagnosed living; frustrations at an inability to express all the feelings and emotions we know come with bpd; and a burning hatred of medicine, along with the side effects it brings.  I’m right there with all of that.

Where I feel like I diverge from that narrative a little bit at least is my desire to share and advocate for mental health awareness.  I’m only six months into this adventure, but I struggle with not shouting from the rooftops that I have suffer from Manic Depressive and that I am fighting this thing.  Punch for punch, I’m right there with it, and not going down easy.  I’m street fighting this thing like it’s Mortal Kombat from the 90’s.

It’s my opinion that we all need to widen the net and share the load that mental health brings.  Whether it’s through forums like this (I appreciate any and all of you who read this and especially those who have been reading since February), or going to a therapist, or support group, or Facebook pages, or whatever the hell works for you, do it.  The reason that I work so hard – the last eight days notwithstanding – on writing here.  I’m humbled that anyone follows my blog, and I hope that those of you who read regularly get something good and helpful from each entry.

Like I said at the top – time flies.  We are all (those with mental health challenges or not) obligated to do our very best to make the most of our time on this earth.  For me, my time on earth finally makes sense.  When the psychiatrist looked at me on February 17 2017 and said, “Well Will, you’ve got Bipolar 1,” that clarified what would be the rest of my life.  I finally knew why.  The clarity has caused a lot of things to become better in my life.

I am a believer in things happening exactly how they should – it’s just in my nature, and it’s been part of who I am as a result of my faith as well.  My diagnosis happened at 31, and not 21 for a reason.  My appetite for sharing and advocacy is much stronger now.

I am writing my own story as someone fighting manic depressive illness.  I will win.

Still up.

Still up.

And pacing.

And laying in bed staring into the darkness, and hoping to fall asleep and wondering what every little noise is and wondering when I’ll fall asleep and thinking about my triumph from today and wondering when I’ll fall asleep and imagining how today will change my family’s life and imagining being asleep and feeling myself float above the clouds again and trying too hard to fall asleep.  Damnit.

I am tired.

I am still up.

WOW.

That’s about all I’ve got, and all I can even think about saying right now.

There’s been such a roller coaster of emotion and change and just wow over the last five days I can hardly stand it.  Just Wow.  It’s not even a bad wow, it’s one of those situations where you really get to sit back and say, “Wow, is this real?  Can this really be happening this way?”

This wow is also why I am feeling super manic today.  I am unbeatable.  I am inflated so much that I could literally float away.  I am on fire, indestructible, unstoppable, unflappable, and the best thing to happen in my world since my world began.  In my heart I feel like I can feel the neurons firing and misfiring and exploding in my head.  So … with that being said – that’s why I’m here today, writing right freaking now, so that I can start to reign in the mania.  My goodness it needs to be chained down because … well, because we know what happens when mania isn’t stopped on it’s upward swing.  I’m not going to let that happen, so here we are.  Am I hypomanic right now?

I saw something a display today, that really affected me.  About a week ago, a police officer in the city where I live was killed in the line of duty and today was his funeral.  I happened to be heading north on the highway when his funeral procession was headed south.  It was such a stark but touching scene to see actual miles and miles of police vehicles moving slowly with precision and respect.  Everywhere I saw there were cars pulled over and (I’d imagine they were likely) veterans, or current active duty members of the military out saluting the procession as it went by.  It was as moment to remind you that America has a lot of joy in it’s core, and that we are surrounded on a daily basis by people who are willing to serve and sacrifice.  I am glad that I got to see such a great display of respect live.

It also reminded me that I am blessed to be able to do what I do professionally, but also personally.  Sometimes I sell myself short and think that I haven’t done anything measurable for society when I compare myself to military members or first responders, but I only felt grateful for them today.

Wow.

Such power is packed in a little three letter word.

I’m glad to know that I’m being guided through some great times in my life right now.

Change 

I guess change is part of living a bipolar life.  The two words are intrinsically connected, aren’t they?  Again, while I don’t like the term bipolar, and prefer the term Manic Depressive, we will use bipolar today.  

There was an article this morning on USA Today that talked about the most misunderstood mental illnesses out there, and it listed mine as one of them.  It says that “Often confused with depression or schizophrenia, bipolar disorder is characterized by stark shifts in mood and energy.”  In other words, change abounds.   

The author continues: “Those with the condition often experience periods of prolonged and profound depression that alternates with periods of excessively elevated or irritable mood.”  In other, other words, more change.  

So with change established as a theme that exists living the bipolar, or manic depressive, life let’s dive into current events here in my life today.   There’s a major major change coming down the pipeline – talking beginning of a new era of life type stuff.   It’s a positive change, but it’s a big change nonetheless.   I think those changes are the ones that can have the biggest influence, for good or ill, on how things are going in life you know?  

Change ties back in to the last post that I wrote.  Change is constant in life – sometimes, like this one, we choose it.   But when it comes to how to deal with it, I feel strongly like the tools are the same, and it’s up to me to use them.  Or not.   

Checks and balances

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Checks and balances are an essential part of daily life in the world.  Our form of government (here in the US) is set around it.  Life checks itself by nature.  In Jurassic Park, the great quote of “Life finds a way,” refers to checks and balances.  I am also part of that equation now, as a sufferer of this disease.  I’ve got to be sure that there are daily checks and balances for me to get through each day.

For each moment that I feel down, there’s a check to bring it up.  For every moment that I’m too “up,” there’s a balance to bring it down.  Those checks and balances are lots of things in my life, from the meds, to the coping skills, to regular visits to the therapist, to regular visits with the psychiatrist, to keeping an element of spirituality in my life, to staying close to my family.  I am glad to have each one of these tools and I’m glad for the difference they make.  Sometimes they are the sword that you see the Lady of Justice above wielding.  Other times they are a shield that protects.  But they’re all always there.

The key, and the most important part of it all is the simplest:  I’ve got to take the tools off the shelf and use them.  Some days it’s really hard … so damn hard.  Why is that?  I don’t really fully understand why – but some days it kills me to care enough to fight back.

There are also skills and things that I’ve learned that help me understand the when and how of decision making.  I’m looking down the nose of a huge decision right now, and I can tell that there has been growth because six months ago I totally would have just done it.  Now I’ve taken a week to study it out, and now I’m trying to find the final answer.  I’m checking and balancing the mania that comes from being pursued professionally … six months ago, or a year ago … I would have taken the job immediately you know?

Little by little, I almost, most days, feel like I’m getting better.

 

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