Life vs. Death, Living vs. Existing
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:
Diagnosis: Bipolar Disorder
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.
Confessions of an Agoraphobic
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.)
Dark Night of the Soul
No words today…
No Laughing Matter: a Tribute to Robin Williams
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
Eye-Contact and Animal Healers
As someone with Asperger’s who spent much of my life avoiding eye contact until I was properly medicated, I still feel uncomfortable with eye contact in human interaction. Yet I actively seek out eye contact with animals. I am not alone in this. For people with Asperger’s and Autism, eye-contact with humans is fearsome and yet with animals, sublime.
People say eye contact with animals is less threatening, yet I believe there is more to it than that. Gazing into the eyes of an animal, I feel love, depth of consciousness, and connection– all qualities quite impossible to feel with humans, except in fleeting moments with my beloved Aspie husband who, too, has problems with eye contact. Perhaps because Aspies and Auties are so starved for affection, so hungry for a form of love that they CAN handle, animals offer pure and simple love, and unconditional acceptance. The truth is animals are excellent therapists and natural healers!! P.S. Animals are good for depressives, too.
(For more information on eye contact and Asperger’s and Bipolar Disorder, see the memoir I wrote of my experiences with love, called “Eye-locks and Other Fearsome Things” http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/ellen-stockdale-wolfe.html)
“Couldn’t Look Away” – Book review by Alistair McHarg of “Eye-locks and Other Fearsome Things”
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.
Two of Me?
I look down at the catalogue card on my desk. I look at the first subject heading. It says: “City planning – Zoning.” I see the word “City” and I see the word “planning” but I see them as “City – planning – Zoning,” something I’ve never seen before. I go over to Tony.
“Tony, is this a new subject heading? I’ve never seen the two together before.”
Dr. Lencek is standing by, listening and he says, “Ah, indirect communication.”
I hold the words in my mind. “Indirect communication.” What does he mean?
Tony answers gently, “Ellen, that’s not a new subject heading— we’ve used it before.”
I look down at the card. Of course, it isn’t a new heading. Now the words look normal. “City planning – Zoning.” My face burns hot and red. How stupid! I’ve used the heading for years. I slink back to my desk in embarrassment.
“It will get easier,” Dr. Lencek says.
“INDIRECT COMMUNICATION.” DR. LENCEK SAID THAT AFTER YOU SAID YOU HAD NEVER SEEN THE TWO TOGETHER BEFORE. YOU MEANT THE TWO PERSONALITIES INSIDE YOU. YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN THEM BEFORE. YOU WERE DESCRIBING YOUR MENTAL STATE IN INDIRECT COMMUNICATION. THAT’S WHAT DR. LENCEK MEANT. THAT’S WHY DR. LENCEK IS ALWAYS TELLING YOU TO FREEZE ONE PARTICULAR MOMENT IN TIME AND KEEP IT IN THE MEMORY. “HOLD IT IN YOUR MIND,” HE ALWAYS SAYS. HE IS TRYING TO GET YOU TO BE ONE MIND— ONE PERSON. YOU’RE SPLIT IN TWO.
I feel weaker than ever now, though I am sitting. I look over at Dr. Lencek who is standing nearby Tony’s desk working. I want to hug him. All the times I was so nasty to him when he was trying to communicate with me . . .
IT’S THE PLAN. IT’S THE PLAN YOU OVERHEARD DANIELLE DISCUSSING WITH CAROLINE. YOU OVERHEARD DANIELLE SAY HOW SURPRISED SHE WAS THAT THE PERSONNEL HEAD WOULD ALLOW THEM TO GO THROUGH WITH THE PLAN. DANIELLE HAD THOUGHT THE HEAD WOULD HAVE SAID NO. THEY WERE PLANNING TO SHOW YOU HAD TWO PERSONALITIES.
But why would they bother helping me in this way? Why would they bother helping me at all after all my moodiness and fits of anger?
I am shaking now. I try to get up from my desk to look up the call number for the book. Dr. Lencek is standing by. Tony and Danielle are standing to the side watching me as I try to get up. I try to put one foot in front of the other. It is as if I have forgotten how to walk. My legs and feet don’t move the right way. I look up at Danielle. She probably overheard most of the conversation between Tony and me from this morning. She knows what is wrong with me. This is why she has kept away. She is watching me with an expression so dramatic that it is easy for me to see worry and compassion. There are tears in her eyes. For once I can feel the love. I want to run into her arms and cry. But I cannot walk. It is as if I am a big baby and when I finally do manage to walk slowly past them to the back of the room, I am unable to respond when Eva passes by and says hello. It is taking all my power and concentration just to walk to get where I am going. I suddenly am so exposed. Like a baby walking down the aisle. But, no, it is like I am being wheeled down the aisle. Something is moving me down the aisle and it is not my feet. I am in a big, dark, round cave. And in one corner of the cave is a small opening where the light shines in.
From Chapter 11 of my memoir on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Eye-locks-Other-Fearsome-Things-ebook/dp/B007TOOF56/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1345051643&sr=1-1&keywords=eye-locks Also available on Barnes & Noble Nook, iBooks and Smashwords.
This is the mind in mania, a sampling of the free-flow of racing thoughts and rhyming words that occur. On first glance, the meaning may seem random but in the context of the memoir, themes of paranoia and the flip side of mania, depression, are apparent.
I catch the Number Four bus. The bus is crowded. The motor in my head starts racing again.
IT’S PANIC. AND THEY’RE PUSHING. PUSHING AND SHOVING. AND THE STREET LIGHTS ARE FLASHING— GREEN VENOM/BLOODY TEARS ALTERNATELY ON THE RAINDROP WINDOWS OF THE BUS. AND THAT WOMAN OVER THERE IS STARING, DAMNED BITCH! AND THAT HAIRY MAN— THE EYES ARE PROBING AND LOCKING. IT’S SHOCKING. THE MIND MOTOR’S GOING FASTER AND FASTER STILL. NERVE ENDINGS FIRING. AXONS AND DENDRITES SYNAPSING ALL OVER THE GODDAMNED PLACE. AND THE STREETS CRAWL BY. FLIP FLOP. THE CAMERA SHOP. GOTTA MOP THE CAMERA SHOP. FLIP FLOP. THE BUTCHER SHOP. CHOP. CHOP. RAW MEAT DROPS AT THE FEET OF FAT FLESH. TICK TOCK. THE ROUND, WHITE INSTITUTIONAL CLOCK TICK-TOCKS TO THE CHOP CHOP OF THE BUTCHER SHOP. A SEAT. SIT DOWN. CLOSE THE EYES. YEAH. THAT’S BETTER. NICE AND EASY DOES IT. TRANQUILITY. SENILITY. DEBILITY. THE MIND MOTOR’S RACING. THE HANDS ARE SHAKING. GRAB HOLD OF THE BAR. YOU’LL GO FAR IF YOU GRAB HOLD OF THE BAR. KEEP THE EYES CLOSED AND GRAB HOLD OF THE BAR. THE BLACK HOLES IN SPACE TAKE THE PLACE OF THE RAY OF HOPE WHICH LIES LIKE A DOPE BURIED UNDER THE FALLEN STARS. A MURKY MIASMA AT THE BOTTOM OF THE UNIVERSE. REHEARSE THE HEARSE. ANOTHER STAR IS DYING AND TRYING TO REST AT BEST IN THE BOTTOM OF FOREVER. AND PEOPLE ARE LEAVING. AND THERE’S MORE SPACE. AND I’M DOWN IN THE VALLEY OF THE DESPAIRING DAMSELS, SITTING WITH THE DOTTED, SPOTTED DALMATIANS, IN THE PURPLE PANTRY PUDDLES OF THEIR PISS.
From Chapter 2 of my Bipolar/Asperger’s Memoir. For more information see:
Also available on Barnes & Nobles Nook, iBooks and Smashwords
At the Brink
This excerpt from Chapter 2 of my Biolar/Asperger’s memoir of finding love shows the beginnings of a psychotic breakdown.
I feel the electric light glowering at me. I look around the room in my basement apartment. The men following me. The phone call from Yvonne. Nothing is making sense. Obeah island witchcraft? Danielle’s thing. Danielle is the island woman. The room spins again. I feel like someone is watching me. I feel someone here— looking in the window.
Jumpy thoughts. Buzzing mind. I know the signs. Feeling the victim of a plot. Fear of being followed— of being watched— of evil spells coming out of an inanimate object— panic— magical thinking— paranoid ideation. I have made the break with reality. I have entered the deep, dark hollows of the paranoid’s world. Terror! I pick up the phone and dial. 242-6637.
“Hello, Dr.’s office.”
“Hello, may I please speak to Dr. Agostinucci?”
“Hold on a minute.”
“Hello, this is Dr. Agustinucci.”
“Hello, Joey. It’s Ellen. I’ve got to talk to you. Can you talk?”
“Yeah, you got me at a good time. I’m just in between sessions. What’s up?”
“Joey, I don’t know. I’m flipping out. I can’t sleep. I called Danielle last night and told her.”
“You told her what?”
“I told her what I told you— that I loved her. And then she told me that she wasn’t ‘that way’. And then . . . ” I start crying. “Oh, Joey, I’m so scared. I mean it means that all along I couldn’t see reality. I’ve been living in this fantasy world all this time, thinking Danielle’s in love with me and gay, and I’ve been drinking and drinking because I haven’t been able to sleep. And then today I started thinking that spells were coming out of the elephant that Sundra gave me. So I took the bus up to Columbia to throw it away. And then I thought two men were following me home. And Yvonne called me up from work and, Joey, I think it’s all a plot . . . ”
“Wait a minute, calm down. You’re all upset!”
I continue. “Yvonne and Danielle are in cahoots. Maybe they’re both testing me to see if I’m gay. Joey, I don’t know how I’m going to go to work tomorrow and face Danielle and face Yvonne . . . ”
“Calm down. One thing at a time. You’re overwrought.”
“But, Joey, I don’t know what is real and what’s not real anymore. I can’t sleep and I can’t stop crying.”
“Okay, look, I’ll give you a prescription. I’ll call in the prescription to the pharmacy. They’re probably still open. I’ll have it delivered. Just give me the name of the pharmacy you use— the one nearest you.”
“Uh . . . I’ve got to look it up— just a second . . .” I run to the bathroom to find a prescription bottle.
“Joey, it’s Rexall on 76th Street. The phone number is 663-7684.”
“Okay, look, I’m going to give you a prescription for Valium, 2 mgs. Take one pill and see what happens. If you still feel very anxious, take two.”
“Listen, I think you should go to work tomorrow.”
“Joey how can I? I keep bursting into tears.”
“Look, the Valium will help calm you. It’ll be a whole lot worse if you stay home. I suggest you call the Health Service first thing in the morning and make an appointment to see someone. Tell them it’s an emergency.”
“Okay, Joey, I guess you were right. You always told me I needed therapy and I always told you that I felt I’d go to pieces one day and now it seems that day has come.”
“Listen, you’re extremely upset. Take the Valium and try to get some sleep. If you need me you know where to reach me. And if things really get bad you know you can always go over to the emergency room in Lenox Hill.”
“Yeah, that’s right, I can always go there.”
“Listen, when I call in the prescription I’ll arrange for them to deliver it, too, so you don’t have to do anything. You have enough money to pay for it?”
“I don’t know. Let me see. Yeah, I think I do,” I say as I scramble through my purse.
“Okay, look, are you going to be able to answer the door? Or are you still scared of those men?”
“No, the doorbell only rang twice. Whoever it was is long gone. I’m not scared of that anymore.”
“Good. So just wait for the delivery. I’ll tell them to speed it up.”
“Thanks a lot, Joey! Thanks for everything!”
“Okay, take care, get some rest. I’ll call you tomorrow to see how you are.”
“Okay, thanks a lot, Joey, bye.”
For information on the memoir see: http://www.amazon.com/Eye-locks-Other-Fearsome-Things-ebook/dp/B007TOOF56/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1345051643&sr=1-1&keywords=eye-locks The book is also available on Barnes & Noble Nook, iBooks and Smashwords.