It’s been a long, hard time since I wrote. But unlike the bird above I was not alone, thank the Lord. Beloved husband was at my side. I have thought of many of you and wondered how you’re doing, if you’re still blogging. Kit, Running Elk, Bert, Paul, Michael, Sue, Palestine Rose, Joshi, Ashley, Didi, Val and so many others. I check my hundreds of blog emails unread and see you are. Have not only not been blogging but not reading the blogs either. Been sick, selling our barn, moving and withdrawing from a major benzodiazepine, Klonopin, a “benzo” as they are called. My doctor got me addicted to it. And, while selling the house I took extra because it was so stressful and I had to function no matter how sick I was. Now I am paying the price. Withdrawal is at a snail’s pace and fraught with physical and psychological symptoms. It seems futile to be angry with my doctor. He didn’t force it down my throat but he did dispense a very dangerous drug. This is one of the seldom talked about pitfalls of being mentally ill.
The house is finally sold and all the headaches with it. We will miss the nature and our home in the depths of it. I have lost my inspiration. My muse. Pictures were everywhere. Now in New York City there is so much stimulation I cannot even see images to capture. But in many ways it is good to be here. Although I remain sick and sick at heart with what is happening to our country, even so, my husband and I are blessed to have each other. But today, with the March for Our Lives, I finally have new hope. Perhaps the new generation can succeed at peace where we have failed. Perhaps the world can stop destroying itself.
And finally now, at last, I can find time now to look within. I continue to follow Sadhguru and his Inner Engineering. That is my priority now. So I don’t know if I can go back to blogging as I used to. Inspiration is at zero. But at least I hope to visit sites now and again. Let me take this opportunity to say hello and happy Spring to all of you!
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…
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
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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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:
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!!
On circuit overload
can’t turn off the current
despite parallel despair
know a fuse will blow
but can do little to stop the flow
mania and depression
together = paranoia
I am Bipolar. I used to think I was two different people. In the remarkable article below Bipolar Disorder is described as inhabiting two different worlds.
A fragmentation of reality
A major psychotic break
The other day I wrote a poem, Point of View, about having a psychotic break recently. Well, the break was a very slight one. Perhaps many people thought I was just being poetic. It reminded me of a time when I was being prepped for a surgery and the surgeon asking me about the medications I take. When asked why I took Thiothixene, an anti-psychotic, I told him that I was Bipolar. He said, “I think we are all Bipolar.” Maybe it was an effort to relate to me but it hit me in a “sore spot.” Everyone has moods, it is true, but being Bipolar is not just being “moody.” If we who are Bipolar have to endure the stigma of mental illness, at least allow that it is different from being “normal,” and not just some self-indulgent form of self-pity. So braving the stigma of it all, for I am sure many will stop reading here if they have not already, it seems incumbent on me to educate people. Bipolar Disorder is a major axis 1 mental illness characterized by extreme highs and lows. It is one of the most risky mental illness diagnoses because people can die from it. They suicide during a low. In Bipolar 1 the sufferer can become manic and while manic, and even while despressed, can become psychotic. Normal people do not become psychotic except perhaps in their dreams. Being psychotic means a major break with reality. It means entering another world that most don’t even know exists. So, no, we are not all Bipolar.
And, yes, people have fractured views of reality. But some views are more fractured than others. There is another “reality” in psychosis. This other reality exists when one is psychotic. What interests me is that different people who are psychotic have similar experiences, making me think there really IS another reality that is floating around out there. In this other reality the TV and radio can give you messages directly relevant to your life– so relevant that one begins to think there is some mind-monitoring device in your TV or radio. And the AC has a microphone that allows you to talk to the world outside one’s window, to the people in the street, and they respond to your commands. When one has the nerve to venture outside of one’s apartment, a cacaphony of voices tells you positive or negative things. People (I thought of them as teachers and/or psychics) do not come up to you and speak to you directly for they know you could not handle that. Rather they speak loudly to one another about your behavior so you can’t help but overhear. If they are pleased with your behavior at the time, the comments are your reward for getting well. If they are displeased, criticism comes from everywhere. There is nowhere to hide the shame you feel because negative feedback is coming at you from every direction. Then life becomes a hell that does not disappear when you go back home, because you can still hear the voices next door or in the street. That is just one down side of this other “reality.” Everything has self-referential meaning. You are either hearing voices that don’t exist, or you are one step away from that because the voices you hear are actually real, saying real things, but those things all have meaning for you and you alone. There is no safe place. No escape. No privacy. I was living in an apartment at the time. How much worse is it to be living in a shelter, hospital, prison or, worse on the street where one is overwhelmed with every kind of stimuli possible!
Synchronicity is everywhere. This is, I suppose, a lower from of altered consciousness. Life alternates between heaven and hell. That is what I meant by a fragmented view of reality in my poem, Point of View. One wonders if there is some divine intervention in these states because of the ubiquitousness of synchronicity. Is this another take on discerning Maya? I often lament to my husband that I cannot see the world as a dream or Maya and I feel so utterly unenlightened. And yet, how foolish I am, for many years ago I lived in another reality. Only now can I see that “reality” IS a consensual dream or “Maya.”
(For a narrative non-fiction account of being Bipolar and Aspie, the quest for sanity and the search for love, please see: http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/ellen-stockdale-wolfe.html to purchase my book.)
Caught in a web of fears
full of wet tangled tears
been this way for years
of course there are triggers
that make fears look bigger
but it is hard to figure
a way out of negativity
a way back to levity
and to my old productivity
it is hard enough to fight
the dramas of mind with my might
without succumbing to fright
about losing you
fighting at once the physical and the mental
is far too much for a mind balanced so gentle.
I enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone interested in psychological exploration – from clinicians to self-diagnosticians to concerned family members to lovers of extraordinary tales well told.
Do not imagine that this is a lesson-plan about Bipolar Disorder, or Asperger’s Syndrome, for that matter. On the contrary, we see Ms. Wolfe wrestling with a panoply of symptoms residing on different points of a spectrum – we never know exactly where we are, and neither does Ms. Wolfe. We get first person, real-time intimacy – the raw data, not the spin.
Asperger’s, autism, schizophrenia, paranoia, mania, depression, and challenging questions of gender identity blur back and forth until one is overpowered by the sense of a shape-shifting, ghostly enemy. We witness Ms. Wolfe inaccurately interpreting social cues the way an anthropologist might puzzle over artifacts from an alien civilization.
The writing is austere, elegant, forceful and almost chillingly honest. There is not an ounce of self-pity to be found, or self-aggrandizement. Serious students of these illnesses could hardly find a more useful document because – using meticulous diaries she kept through the years – Ms. Wolfe has made scrupulous accuracy her battle cry.
From very early on I found myself caring about what happened to Ms. Wolfe, wanting to know more. I sensed sweetness, innocence, and vulnerability – and that made me want to protect her. Consequently, the dread I felt as I watched her struggle with her own mind – and the outside world – created the tension of real drama. One would have to be a cold fish indeed to not suffer along with her as she trudges ahead with heroic determination.
Ms. Wolfe has achieved something quite remarkable. She has applied the direct simplicity of science to a human ordeal and, in the process, accomplished what art does, when it is at its very best. She has fearlessly and generously taken us into her world and – in doing so – enriched us all.