There’s been no photography nor poetry for months. Today in Harlem on the way home from a beautiful museum these cityscapes caught my eye. It is a beginning. Maybe.
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…
Fears and tears
in the sunshine
“The cruelest month”
and with it
in the spirit
I see only
and Spring clouds
my parched soul
and bring back
will and spirit
This appeared as a feature in the “Modern Love” series in the New York Times. It could be the story of my marriage, a marriage of two mentally ill people, though my husband is way higher functioning than I am.
Out of the Darkness — Modern Love http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/fashion/out-of-the-darkness-modern-love.html
of what’s to come
Husband such a
Stay in the present
Enjoy every moment
It is fleeting…
Why can’t I
Why can’t I
be jolly with he
whom I worship
Am I caught in a web
like a fly in a drainpipe?
Or is it summer inertia,
The lazy, hazy daze?
Could it be
I have lost it totally
to a pharmaceutical lobotomy?
Or am I processing still
retreat with Mooji?
Anger is more controlled
and that is good
but creativity has taken a vacation and
kidnapped my muse leaving
no urge to make new words or pictures?
and love flows
making me bow my head in prayer
and that is good
but what has happened to me?
I do not understand what I read
and have trouble processing
and cannot even comment.
Perhaps I am empty…
No words. No photos. Fractured mind/body of Akathisia.
Faulty connection to God. Weak link to Mooji.
It’s been awhile.
Forgive me if I have neglected your posts. Cannot process lots of meaning. Losing cognitive functioning.
Medication change. In the last months of withdrawal. Finally totally off the blasted Zyprexa. A psych med. Heavy duty antipsychotic on for 15 + years. Sick from withdrawal and from increased dose of another antipsychotic been on 40 years. Almost daily panic attacks and lots and lots of migraines. Nausea. Anxiety ad infinitum.
When will strength/creativity/spirituality return?
Better question…WILL it return?
There are far, far worse things. Two blogging friends I hold in my heart, very sick, with serious stuff.
Better psych meds needed. No, no, no! Needing psych meds NOT a sign of weakness. Unmedicated Bipolar 1 can be fatal.
Poetry a memory. Beauty ignored. Even my refuge, Nature, cannot inspire.
Will figure this out with Doc. Hope to figure it out with Doc.
Hope is hard to find.
Love still there.
The most important thing.
Send to all.
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.
After many years on different medications, and still looking for one that works better, and after finding a wonderfully understanding husband (who happens also to be a therapist), after finding meditation and, just recently, my guru, Mooji, and his Advaita Vedanta Buddhism, I can say this is no longer how I feel. But it is how I felt for a very long time, much of my life, in fact. Thank you to Miss Bipolar for sharing her feelings so honestly because they ring true for most of us who live with Bipolar Disorder until we get a handle on our illness. And that can take years.
Coming soon, a post on alternative therapies for Bipolar Disorder.
As many of you know, I sometimes publish (and actively encourage) guest posts from folk. I do so as I truly believe that it is important that we as a community get to share and in order the provide folk with an opportunity to actively contribute to the guild. I do of course reserve the right to edit anything which is submitted and to decline to publish anything which I feel I shouldn’t publish. And the criteria I use in deciding what to publish, what to edit, or even what not to publish, isn’t about me agreeing with the content of the guest post it is more about the quality of it, and the impact I feel it would have on our members.
The following guest post was submitted to us by Cassandra – Miss bipolar from over at The Twisted Mind Behind An Artist. And isn’t edited in any way.
The Illness That…
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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:
We who are mentally ill are at the mercy of our psychiatrists. They throw pills at us hoping to help us. Okay, to be fair, some pills DO work. At one point in my life, they kept me out of the mental hospital. But sometimes they don’t. I have been ailing for months and my general practitioner could not find anything wrong despite constant low grade fever, three or four migraines a week, faintness and dizziness. He never called me a hypochondriac. The thermometer did not lie. But I felt he thought me a complaining nuisance. My psychiatrist was mystified! He should not have been.
Miraculously, for some reason, out of the blue, I remembered years ago, when the psychiatrist first put me on Zyprexa, never being more sick so often than when I went on it. I googled “Zyprexa side effects” and found fever, faintness and dizziness as side effects, especially when combined with other drugs I am taking, prescribed by said psychiatrist.
Zyprexa IS a miracle drug psychologically. It DID help me over come much, but definitely not all, anxiety. It DID stabilize my moods better than anything before since I cannot take typical mood stabilizers. Recently, though, the physical symptoms have been taking a toll on my life. I have found it hard to keep up friendships. I became housebound due to feeling ill. I found it hard to keep up with the blog and haven’t been posting like I used to, nor able to read nearly as many posts of people I love to follow. Maybe some of you noticed. Maybe not. In desperation I finally told my psychiatrist that I wanted to get off Zyprexa. He was all for it due to side effects of serious weight gain and a propensity towards diabetes. Why had he not told me to get off it before???
Well, two days into withdrawal, I am nauseous and have flu-like dizziness and weakness. And I am nursing a husband who has bronchitis. I have started the withdrawal and intend to try to continue. Trying to figure out just what was going on, I googled “Zyprexa withdrawal.” Guess what? Flu-like symptoms, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, all for an indefinite length of time. I only decreased the dosage by one half a pill, 1 measly milligram, and am having this hard of a time. I will have to go through this again when I decrease the other half dose.
Why don’t doctors know about ALL the side effects of the pills they prescribe??? And why don’t they warn the patients of the withdrawal possibilities??? I have been on Zyprexa for 10 or so years. So this will be heavy duty withdrawal.
We who are mentally ill must suffer not only symptoms but the opprobrium of our friends, doctors and all who come in contact with us. It is not just the mental illness we suffer from but side effects from the medications as well.
In part, I blame myself. I should have been more informed. I should have questioned the doctors. I should have googled symptoms earlier. I should not have blindly trusted my psychiatrist. I should have remembered back to a time when I had health. But I didn’t.
A warning to all those Schizophrenics and Bipolars out there or anyone else whose doctor is thinking of putting them on Zyprexa, MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION! Discuss the costs and the benefits, not just the benefits.
And if you are on Zyprexa and want to go off it, tell your doctor first!!! Don’t do it on your own!!! Abrupt withdrawal can be fatal. Yes, fatal, as in dead.
And to my followers, I am sincerely sorry for not always responding, visiting or reading your posts over the past few months. Have no idea how this is going to play out but it has to be. I will do what I can.
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:
To all of you who have “liked” my posts over the past week, a heartfelt apology and a mighty THANK YOU!!! I would have liked to have stopped by your blogs but am following WAY, WANY too many people and can’t keep up. I keep following more and more people when I am manic and then feel hopelessly unable to keep up when in the depressed cycle– which is where I am now. I am clean out of words, in a downward spiral, and on day 3 of a mighty migraine. Hope you’ll stop by again sometime in the future so I can visit your place.
But a full moon
The super moon
Wakes me at 3
Like an alarm
I married a Wolfe
Perhaps I am to howl
But I love the silence
In which I can hear
The ear sounds
Of my nervous system
Like a sea shell
Kitt O’Malley over at kittomalley.com posted the following information, along with her wonderfully done video in which she discusses her own battle with Bipolar Disorder and offers encouragement to those newly diagnosed. Watch her excellent video!
Kitt writes: “Healthline launched a video campaign called “You’ve Got This” where we who live with bipolar disorder can make a short video offering hope and inspiration to those recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder.” Healthline also makes a contribution to charity for each video submitted.
This is my contribution. It is an effort to show one possible “gift” Bipolar Disorder gives– the gift of creativity. And though it sometimes seems as if the medications for BPD cut down on our creativity, actually they make it possible for us Bipolars to organize our thoughts and execute whatever creative works we are inspired to do. You may just have to listen a little harder to the quiet voice within. Don’t worry. It is there. And with medication you actually have a chance of following through on your ideas.
The video at top is a small sampling of my work that would not have been born without my being Bipolar.
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.)
No words today…
Robin Williams fans mourn the loss of one of the greatest comedians of history today. In this world of wars, and anguish, Robin Williams made us laugh.
For Robin Williams was a most gifted comedian but Robin Williams was also Bipolar.
His Bipolar disease fed his genius. It also killed him.
His Bipolar disease gave him the ability to wildly free associate right to the heart of our funny bones. His performances were floridly manic but his alcoholism was depressed.
In truth of fact, Bipolar disease often does beget genius but far more often Bipolar Disease is the cause of suicide. The most deadly of all mental illnesses, we Bipolars see, and at times, enjoy the mania but far too often are caught in the black hole of depression.
And while fans may mourn Robin Williams, we who are Bipolar cry tears of anguish not just for one of our heroes, but also for a disease that could kill us.
Like most Bipolars suicidal thoughts and wishes are not foreign to me, just as they are not alien to many mentally ill people. But more Bipolars die from their mental illness than any of the other mental illnesses
Fans loved Robin Williams and ignored the Bipolar aspect. Mental illness is still stigmatized and talked about in hushed tones.
We who are depressed are told to “snap out of it”, “look on the bright side,” engage in “positive thinking” as if we have total control over our psyches. If anyone could look at the funny side, it was Robin Williams and yet Bipolar depression sent him to an early grave.
Pay tribute to Robin Williams by accepting Bipolar Disorder and Major Depression and, instead of stigmatizing mental illness, treat the afflicted with acceptance and empathy.
May Robin Williams rest in peace at long last!!
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.
A night of mania with no sleep
the wee hours on the computer
running on empty and
bordering on irascibility
my stirrings awaken my husband
a pre-dawn breakfast and a visit to
The Saugerties Lighthouse at 7 A.M.
What drama plays out behind lace curtains?
A beacon of light from the Inside,
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
After the crash