Another invisible illness silently
sapping quality of life
vertigo and acute nausea
and, with Aspergers, I am
more of a recluse than ever
But my beloved stands by me
A few weeks ago
I wanted to die
Bipolar, too, you see
too sick to sleep
too long a wait
to see a doctor
My beloved, my savior
keeps me going.
But I must fight on my own
and have enlisted Sadhguru
an Indian mystic and Yogi and guru
who promises bliss.
Meditating and chanting every day
with my beautiful husband
pulls me through
My husband the healer
with the poorest of the poor
the dejected and rejected
My husband who married me
despite my mental illness.
Sadhguru says my mind
can poison my body
Sadhguru, my last best hope
I meditate and chant Aum
with him daily
living the life of a hermit
in a 3 room box in New York City
rather than in a cave in the Himalayas
the spirituality of years ago
before antipsychotic medication
gave me a spiritual lobotomy
A trade off
it offered me
some sort of stability
to have a quasi normal life
with my devoted husband
of 28 years.
Why can’t you have
that allows you to love
I am going to try…
I am Manic-Depressive, more specifically, Bipolar 1. Unable to take the mood stabilizers usually prescribed for Bipolar Disorder—Valproic acid, Lithium Carbonate, Tegretol, Neurontin and Depakote, my therapist had me on a cocktail of anti-psychotics. Been on an old anti-psychotic, Thiothixene, for about 20 years and a new, atypical anti-psychotic, Zyprexa, for 15 years (more on that drug later).
The anti-psychotics, however, or the neuroleptics as they are called, while keeping me out of the mental hospital and enabling to live a somewhat “normal” life, had a depressant effect on me, robbing my life of all the joy and creativity I used to enjoy, as well as, my mystical experiences in nature.
In an effort to get my spark back, I was put on practically every anti-depressant there is. From the old ones like Tofranil, Elavil, Norpramin and Pamelor, to the newer ones like Effexor, Wellbutrin, Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft. All of them were rejected for reasons as numerous as the drugs themselves. From blunted affect, severe nausea, and weight gain, to a total inability to function or outright mania, even minute doses were problematic. As were my trials of the newer anti-psychotics. And I have heard from many that they have had similar or even more severe reactions to the same medications. A friend of mine attempted suicide on Wellbutrin.
Finally a psychologist recommended St. John’s wort. I was very worried about taking that after all my bad experiences with anti-depressants. But I found a research grade St. John’s wort and gave it a try. I felt a difference the very next day despite being told the effects would kick in gradually. The change was dramatic as demonstrated in what I wrote after one day on St. John’s wort:
Ko-ko, our four-legged, faithful companion, runs into the bedroom, eager to join me on the bed, awash with pure joy. She takes a flying leap up and we lounge together like lizards basking in the sun, reclining requisitely together. It is day 2 of St. John’s wort. Am filled with a loving glow as Ko-ko nestles down to sleep beside me. The beauty of yesterday lingers in my memory—a vacation day spent with my husband in the Palisades on an early October day. The sweet, crackling autumn air filled our lungs as we climbed the Palisades for a spectacular view of the Hudson River. Our path strewn with crunchy, dry leaves. A trail leads us further upwards, the spongy ground, soft underfoot is strewn with paint box colored leaves. Yellow, crimsons, golden russets lay on the damp path, wet from yesterday’s rain. I give thanks to God in this cathedral of color. Try to experience the mysticism of my youth. Yearn to return to the photography and poetry writing of my pre-breakdown days. A revival of creativity. Thank you , God, for giving me my sight back.
As the days went by, more and more of the depression lifted. My husband was happier with me on the St. John’s wort because I was more loving. I also stopped drinking. Completely. And I had been a borderline alcoholic. The door to the prison had been opened and I was now freer. This improvement gradually leveled off and at times I found myself fighting depressions at times but nothing like the deep, black depressions before the SJW.
Still without a mood stabilizers I would cycle, but not psychotically. Next change to be made was to learn the hands on healing technique called Reiki in an attempt to recover my spirituality. Reiki continues to be a blessing as I do it daily to myself and in a prayer form for others. But I was still craving the spirituality of my youth.
Brought up Presbyterian and made to convert to Catholicism in grade school, organized religion was not working for me. I had done Transcendental Meditation in my twenties and dropped it for a reason I no longer remember. Continuing to pray rote prayers I followed Pema Chodron and Paramahansa Yogananda and others. I took about twenty of Yogananda’s lessons offered by Self-Realization Fellowship and meditated according to his teachings. I regard Yogananda as a saint, a true saint, but his path was not “doing it” for me. Tremendous anxiety would take over. And then, through Hariod Brawn on Contentedness.net, I met Mooji and I began listening to his guided meditations and watching his satsangs. Additionally, while convalescing from pneumonia recently, my husband read books written by an old friend he had while pursuing religious studies at the University of Edinburgh. A Celtic Christian minister and reformer, J. Philip Newell. Curious, I read him, too, and he helped me on the path with Mooji. Through Mooji I found that the Self is not Bipolar or OCD or Asperger’s or depressed. Those are troubles of the body/mind/ego self. The “person” in other words. If I can go into the “Presence of God” as Newell says, or into the “Self” as Mooji says, I can be well. Mooji has helped me regain my spirituality and is making me whole.
The last change I made was to get off the newer anti-psychotic, Zyprexa, for health reasons. The drug has horrid side effects including dizziness, heavy weight gain, problems with heat and more. The withdrawal from Zyprexa is very,very hard. I still have .5 mg to go to get off it completely. Meantime, the same company where I buy the research grade St. John’s wort, offers a homeopathic Lithium Orotate (not Lithium Carbonate) spray called Symmetry. Have been using that with great results. Am very even. Gone are the manic nights of insomnia and the deep, dark depressions that sometimes broke through the St. John’s wort. Gone is the rapid cycling.
The company that offers the research grade St. John’s wort (the only brand of St. John’s wort that has worked for me) is Hypericum.com. The homeopathic Lithium Ortotate is offered by the same company. I have no interest in this company and am not paid by them to offer this information. I am not saying that all these things will work for those you touched by the fire of Bipolar Disorder or the black hole of depression or any other disorder. And certainly you must consult your therapist before trying any medication. For example, you cannot mix St. John’s wort while taking certain drugs. Specially mixing St. John’s wort with other antidepressants can be very dangerous. I am just offering alternative to those of you who may have had the same experiences and presenting what has helped me in my own battles. Talk to your therapist if interested.
And last but not by any means least, is Mooji. All information about him is to be found at Mooji.org. There are many, many free Satsang and guided meditation videos available there and on YouTube.
He answered my question about being able to being “realized” despite having Bipolar Disorder and I see now what he said made all the difference in the world. The person is Bipolar but the Self is not! Through watching his satsangs and doing meditation with him daily I am returning to the spirituality of my youth, before my breakdown. I have miles to go but with his help I am more able to cope with this dream we call life.
Below is an excerpt from my book, “Eye-locks and Other Fearsome Things.” In this section of my book I am describing to my therapist a theory I had researched in grad school before my psychotic break with reality at age 28, long before I was to start my life over from scratch as a conceptually-challenged yet more feeling person. Breakdowns can destroy cognitive functioning. It did for me. While I was never ever good at conceptual thinking, the breakdown has made it virtually impossible to understand even the most basic concepts. Despite being on medications for Bipolar Disorder, my mind simply does not work as it once did. This is often humiliating and frustrating though I am mostly okay with it.
Yet, in the past few months, I found Mooji and am following his path– something I thought I would never do because Buddhism was so “beyond” me. And I find myself following many Buddhist blogs. Many times reading such posts and poetry sail way above my comprehension. But this, too, is good. It is humbling and it deprives the ego of its food supply, which according to Mooji, is good. A “chop” at the ego-self is needed over and over again in order to be in the Presence. But the mind still yearns to understand.
For what it is worth here is the excerpt from a therapy session in which I describe my “theory” to my therapist. What is synchronicitous is that the theory sounds somewhat Buddhist in nature. It opens with me talking to my therapist, or rather, reading from my notebook, because I found it difficult to talk at times.
“Alpha = life in utero. Birth = the end of life in utero— death of a sort, a seeming death. Birth is entering the world of light— Reality.
“Reality is too much. People need to escape— to regress. Therefore, the mind goes into altered states of consciousness.” I look up and stop reading and explain. “I studied this when I was in graduate school. I hit upon the literature of altered states of consciousness while I was in a Psych class doing a research paper on creativity and I became obsessed with the topic. I nearly had a breakdown then because I wasn’t eating or sleeping or going to classes. All I was doing was this research and writing. A friend in the dorm used to make sure I ate something. But all that time I felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall. The material was difficult and I was afraid I was really going off the deep end and writing far out stuff. But in the end the professor gave me an A+ on the paper…”
“Anyhow,” I say as I start to read from my notebook again, “many altered states of consciousness have been found to coincide with the production of alpha brain wave patterns.” I stop reading again and say, “I know this first hand because I did biofeedback once and the feeling you get when you’re producing alpha waves is the same as the one you get in mystical experiences and meditation. Altered states of consciousness typically occur under conditions of sensory deprivation or sensory overload because overloading the system shuts it down, so in effect it becomes a condition of sensory deprivation. The first experience of sensory deprivation occurs in the womb. The ultimate form of sensory deprivation is death. Death is a return to the womb. The womb of the earth. Therefore, Alpha = Omega.”
So there it is in a nutshell. The book is mainly an emotional chronicle of relationships, and finding love, despite being very handicapped by Bipolar Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome and OCD. If you would like to purchase it for $2.95 please click on the link below:
I know the importance of mental health screening first hand, as a person who is Bipolar, with Asperger’s, OCD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Therapy works. So does the right combination of medications. It is the difference between life and death. It is the difference between just existing and living a productive life with loving relationships. If you are having difficulties coping, feel you cannot go on as you are, are depressed or have any number of emotional problems, get screened. Get help. You cannot do it alone. I know. I tried. This may be the single most important decision of your life. And if you are interested you can read about the story of my battle against mental illness.
For screening go to:
I will do almost anything to stay at home. Granted I have a few chronic illnesses that keep me in but it is mental illness that is the real challenge. Mental illnesses, plural, and phobias, to be more exact. Bipolar Disorder, Asperger’s, OCD, Emetophobia, Claustophobia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Agoraphobia. And I do what mentally ill people do. I isolate.
Life can be lived through the ethernet. Luckily for me and many others. One can stay in the apartment for days. Today, however, I had to go out. My husband asked me to check the car. And there was shopping to be done and a trip to the post office required. Shit! Forgot to take major meds last night and was not in good shape yesterday either. Dreading going out! A one mile errand for me is like a trip to China. First off, take the missed meds. And make the preparations to go out, hiding money in case of a mugging, packing a phone, emergency meds and emergency numbers for my husband, etc., etc., etc.
Then comes the moment of truth, going out the door. Meet a neighbor and surprised that could handle her in my fragile state, and was, in fact, good with her. Not always the case. Helped a new neighbor and walked out the door into the street. A man coughing. He may vomit. Terrified of vomit and vomiting. I search out the streets and buses for people who look sick or sound sick, coughing, etc. The origin of this phobia– an alcoholic father who was often sick, but knowing that does not help matters. Make it past the coughing man and note his location to look for vomit on the way back.
Then there are all the unknown. This is New York City after all. Dirty, smelly, overstimulating, overcrowded, noisy New York City. People approaching you for good causes, bogus causes, begging, anything is possible. It is not like I am a newcomer here, having lived in New York City for six-plus decades and worked all over the city for three of those decades. Until I couldn’t any more.
Someone once asked me what was there to be afraid of? What could possibly go wrong? Oh, wrong question. I could easily rattle off twenty-five scenarios of disaster and then some. But this morning surprisingly and unusually, am happy to be outside. Greet my Indian newsstand lady friend and my friendly Hispanic super next door. All goes smoothly. The clerk in the post office ends on a kind note after my botched addresses had to be fixed. It actually, and can’t believe I am saying this, but, it actually feels good to be out. Give a beggar a dollar and talk to him. Feeling good outside is a rarity. Perhaps it is the missed medication. Secretly I still believe the medication takes away something good in me. Still suffer from the delusion that all ills come from the medication, though “know” I cannot function without it. Actually perhaps it is doubling up on the dose that helps. Perhaps I should be on a higher dose of the anti-psychotic. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…
Trip over. Glad to be back home. Didn’t feel faint until back home. One of these days will venture out to shop for a new pair of jeans. One of these days…
(For more writing on battling mental illness please see my e-book, “Eye-locks and Other Fearsome Things” on Amazon. Also available on Smashwords, iBooks and Nook.)
Kitt O’Malley over at Kittomalley.com, so generously reviewed my book on being Bipolar and Aspie and the fight for sanity and love, in a post on her blog. Kitt, a psychotherapist and mother and wife, writes about vital and informative topics pertaining to mental health, ranging from being a Bipolar parent to a relationship with God. She can also be found at @kittomalley on Twitter. A big THANK YOU to Kitt for posting this review.
I greatly enjoyed reading and highly recommend Ellen Stockdale Wolfe’s autobiographical story of love alongside psychological and neurological growth: Eye-locks and Other Fearsome Things: Learning to Love as a Bipolar Aspie. In her memoir, Ms. Stockdale Wolfe writes of her struggle with Asperger’s and Bipolar Disorder with psychotic features. Her autobiography traces her growth in her ability to love deeply and truly, her mental health history, and how she overcame challenges of her unique Aspie brain (Asperger’s is an autism spectrum disorder). She uses that unique brain as well as her sensitive soul to create beauty, whether it be this memoir, a poem, photograph, or painting. To see more of her stunning work, check her out at StockdaleWolfe.com, her site is appropriately entitled MOONSIDE | TRIUMPH OF SPIRIT IN LOVE, NATURE & ART.
In tears fighting fears, I prayed to God to speak to me and he did, moments later, through the beautiful words of Dennis Ference, at Merging Traffic…
The cool of green shade
steps to a secret place
locked doors of a shed
the innocence of childhood lost
in a matter of minutes
and no one knew
for years and years and years
dare break the silence even now
Grandpa did a naughty
and it remained
forgotten for years
until you shared your story
of what happened to you
there were other times
of lesser evil
but sketched in memory
enough to sting
so many decades later
I have forgiven
but no longer forgotten
from so early in life
I adored him
etched deep wounds
though the misdemeanors minor
by most standards
just enough to give pause
if I see a secret place
all too inviting
for the sins
a forbidden intimacy
just enough to
add guilt and shame and fear
where they do not belong
in the shade