So, I'm sitting here, doing some introspection, I seriously do not know what to write about. Give me any subject to expound on, and I'll buckle down and see what words I can scrape together in my mind.
But sit me down in front of a blank screen, and it seems I lead a very boring life. Suddenly all the interesting things I've done, or seen, or heard evaporate. Poof!
And then there's that awkward moment where I drum my fingers on the keyboard, and I look at the objects in my room, seeking inspiration from an empty wrapper, the light bulbs, or a vacant pistachio shell sitting on my desk that still tastes like salt.
Nope. No inspiration there.
I look out the window to the hazy sky, and stare at a bug that somehow got itself trapped between the windowpane.
My eyes go next to the dead leaves hanging from the trees, then over to the cups of water by my computer, waiting for me to drink them.
Then I gaze over to the quotes stuck with yellow tape to the sides of my computer screen. I read them, looking for inspiration.
"Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way,"---so says Ray Bradbury.
"You can't rush something you want to last forever," so says an unknown smart person.
"Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." So says E.L. Doctorow.
They are good quotes carefully placed by myself meant for moments like this, when I wonder what I shall write.
Fog. That is enough of a writing prompt.
Such a beautiful, strange, wet, wonderful thing.
Thick, wonderful, moist clouds that hide the sun and sky.
What is it that makes it so strange? So invisible, yet so fluid?
It is true, though, when writing or living, it is a lot like driving in the fog.
You can't see what it is that's coming next. But maybe we're not meant to. Maybe it's best that way. Maybe we like not knowing. Because in not knowing we find art, passion, meaning, and a story that unfolds.
I mean who would want to read story knowing exactly what the end would be? Where's the fun in that?
So I guess at the beginning of this year the second day of February, I'll drive in the fog. After all, the fog is quite mysterious, and enchanting, if not mesmerizing and pesky at the same time.
I remember the feeling of excitement, looking out the window first thing in the morning when I was a child, seeing the fog. In an effort to catch it, to be enfolded by it, I would run out into the field trying to catch the clouds. But whenever I got close to the clouds, they would vanish. And right where I stood was where the fog was not.
It was a strange phenomenon. I would look behind me, and see the fog obscuring the place I had just come from. Then I would look in front of me, and see that the field beyond was hidden by the clouds I could not catch.
Both before, and behind were the clouds I sought, but could never fully hold, or keep, or touch.
But right where I was, there I could see.
This is an analogy for my life.
The past fog. The future Fog. I do not want to live in either of these realities because they will cloud my view. The illusive clouds, the castles in the sky are not mine, and the more I try to catch them, the more they will escape my grasp.
Instead I will be glad of where I am, and where I have been, and where I will someday go.
Here, that is where I am.
Here is where I start. If I cannot catch the clouds, maybe I will walk among them, content with the view.
December is gone, passed away in dream, a haze.
February, this is my reality.
The past, though foggy, drifts hovers, and calls out. But I can't do anything to change it. The February my dad left my mom still haunts my mind. The cursed month.
It's weird, but I can't believe it's been about five years since that fateful day.
It passed like a dream.
Now it is just fog.
It seems like yesterday. The feelings, the memories are still vivid, and raw in my mind. I've sat down to write about the whole experience several times, only to know I could never tell the story.
But I'm afraid that the fog will hide that too.
And part of it I still want to remember.
I've always tried to avoid writing about the subject. But it lingers in my mind wanting to be written about. Wanting air. I know I can never fully, truly write about it not in the way I want to.
But in light of all that has happened, I think it's time I tell, at least a small part of my experience, and let the cards fall where they may, if only someone out there might be helped.
I know the fog will come and cover it up soon enough.
Why am I afraid to even voice my feelings on the matter?
Mostly, because my family hasn't come to terms with it.
So what is this, "It" that I'm afraid to write about?
What is the word that, if spoken, brings heart palpitations and gasps to members of my family?
Okay. I'll say it. Not to label myself or my family. Or to box us up, and invalidate who I am, or any part of my family. But perhaps say it, if only to give air to the words unspoken, and the gag order that has gone on for five years.
There it is.
I'll say it again. Bipolar.
Oh the evil nasty word.
Are you trembling in your shoes?
Are you shivering in your seat?
Oh the pain.
Oh the horror.
Oh the social stigma.
You better stop reading.
Woe is me!
Oh the blight of it.
How dare you say such a nasty word!
I'll say it again. Just for good measure. Just in cause you didn't understand. Bipolar. And again, bipolar, bipolar bipolar!
What? You're still here?
You're still reading?
Dear me? Aren't you offended?
If you are still reading. I'm glad. Thank you for that.
You don't know how good it feels to say it. And have it be said.
I shall sigh now. One long, loud, momentous sigh.
Sigh, because it is a sigh that needs to be sighed. Sighed a thousand million times if need be. A sigh sighed over the misunderstood people of the world, and the problems that never fully get to be aired out so they can heal.
So why are so many people afraid of such a word. Of bipolar?
What is it that causes us to shiver in our boots?
Let us go to google to find out it's meaning.
Here's what Google's definition says about it.
Bi·po·lar--having or relating to two poles or extremities.
Not so bad sounding. It pretty much means two. Think of a happy face, and then a frowny face.
Then think of an average person's smile and frown.
For someone who is bipolar, just tip the smile lines a bit higher than the average person, and then the frown lines lower than the average person, and there you have it. Bipolar.
And if faced head on, it's something that is dealt with, and faced head on.
The sad thing is many UN-informed people out there are cluelessly not helping the stigma that goes with it.
The word mental illness is another misunderstood word.
Why is that? What are we so afraid of when it comes to understanding mental illness?
I read somewhere on the internet that in the middle ages people who had mental illness were thought to have demons, so they would drill holes in the patients heads to let the devils out. Or better yet, they were boiled in water.
Very clever. Very smart. That'll fix the problem for sure.
Aren't you so glad to be born in a modern era? We've have advanced our methods by leaps and bounds in our modern age....or not. Some of our modern-aged people even think that if you have a mental illness it's because you do, in fact, have demons possessing you. (True Story)
Some people think that mental illness is a character flaw, a sin that must be overcome, that the person inflicted must be doing something wrong to have such tendencies.
For whatever the reason. There is a stigma attached to the whole mental illness thing. And believe me, especially in small towns, we are still in the middle-aged mindset.
Perhaps our fear of the whole thing is just a fear that once we say the word, we'll be boiled in hot water, and have holes drilled in our heads. Who knows?
Believe it or not, these small-minded views are plastered all over the internet, this strange way at looking at people who have problems with depression, bipolar, mania, and all the other problems that affect the mind run rampant.
Hence the real reason for this blog post.
Hence my ranting.
Bipolar is not devil possession! Seriously people.
This is very toxic reasoning, if you can call it reasoning. It's toxic for those who need help. Toxic for the families who are dealing with loved ones with such illnesses.
How would I know? Because bipolar is the reason why my dad left my mom after nearly forty years of marriage and nine kids later. I know he wasn't himself at the time, and that he was manic. And if he was thinking straight he would have never left.
But he did.
And because of lack of knowledge, and our ignorance about bipolar, I believe my family ended up split in half, angry, and very confused.
Our family hardly mentions the subject. It's like someone has died, and we've never really grieved or talked about it.
It's the pink elephant in the room that grows bigger every day.
Instead of blaming the real culprit--- tiny neurotransmitters in our brain that don't fire, or fire too much.
They're the culprits.
Not anything else. There's nothing else blame, really. Not my dad. Not my mom. Not anything.
Only being mortal, I guess.
But for some reason my family gets comfort in blaming.
And so does my dad.
They find it easier to blame something else than believe than the truth.
So that is where most of my heartache comes from. Not what happened.
But what didn't happen, when we needed their support the most.
Pride. I think is at the root of it. Or fear. I don't know which.
Deep down we don't want to have something wrong with us. We don't want people looking down at us, or thinking any less of us.
But the truth is, I wouldn't. I would never think any less of you, if you were to tell me your flaws.
In fact, I'd probably like you better. I think it takes a big person to be self aware, and face whatever it is they're afraid of.
It doesn't make any sense really, not calling it what it is. It's like any problem you might have with your body, say my father's arm was broken.
So you say, "Dad, I think your arm is broken. I can see the bone sticking out. I think we need to get you some help."
But instead of looking down at his arm, and seeing for himself, he grows angry and accuses you of being a "liar." Says that it is not broken, and that we are horrid for saying he should get help for his poor arm.
Then my siblings take on my father's cry of injustice.
And all the while, all we cared was for our dad to fix his broken arm.
And that's pretty much the story of what happened. And to this day, I don't quite understand.
And that's the problem.
So my main point in this post is to educate those who may not quite understand what bipolar is. So that you aren't caught off guard if something like this happens to you.
So what is bipolar?
To be brief and to the point, its an illness. It's not something you choose. It's not a sin. It's not the devil possessing your body, though it may look like it to others, because the person affected with it suddenly changes moods so quickly.
To look at any mental illness you must look at it for what it is---an illness. It's no different than a broken arm, or a tumor, or a stomach ache, or a heart condition, or a thyroid problem. It is an illness that can be treated, managed, and helped.
The trick is though, the person has to want to be helped. And that's a hard pill for a bipolar person to swallow.
Deep down, I think the reason why so many people have a hard time with mental illness is because it's one of the hardest diseases to understand---it's a disease that messes with your loved-one's mind.
Then it messes with yours because, if you have no idea what's going on, you really feel totally confused---helpless.
It's really scary, and hard to wrap your mind around because when it strikes, it's at the core of personality, trust, love, and relationships. It's hard in ways that don't make any sense and probably never will. It's so utterly unexplainable, that even now, I'm really having a hard time with it all.
It may sound terrible, but I'm having a hard time with religion, even reading the Bible. Not because I don't believe it. But because when a person is bipolar, sometimes---not all the time, religion becomes their pet subject. Even if they aren't believers in God, they suddenly believe they are God, or they think they have special knowledge from him. If they're manic enough they sometimes see visions, hear voices, have vivid dreams, and say they have secret knowledge they somehow obtained.
And when they are in this mode, they KNOW what they've seen is real.
They sometimes even think you are the devil, or that the devil is after them. (Sometimes they have extreme paranoia, or feelings of awful guilt) They have feelings, vivid, strong, feelings both of joy, fear, hate, love, and everything in-between. Some go from very terrible depression, to feelings of euphoria where they think they can do superhuman things. When they are that manic they have this uncontrollable urge to act on their feelings even if those feelings aren't based on reality. It's all so weird. So frightening. Frightening to me in ways I cannot begin to say.
Frightening because, even if I don't want to believe it, my family has a disease that messes with the core of personality, religion, and spirituality. And that's a tough pill to swallow.
To know that missing a neurotransmitter, or a brain receptor, or a person lacking Dopamine or Serotonin can make a person more loving, or less loving, or that it can cause a person to feel connection, love, and compassion, or empathy, or lack of those emotions, is all so weird.
So so so.....weird.
It shakes my paradigm, and causes me to ask questions I'd never thought I'd ask. It causes me to look at people totally differently than I did before.
When someone is losing their temper, I think, "gee, that person is missing Serotonin."
When someone is hyper spiritual-on the weird side, I think, "hummm, I wonder what chemical they are lacking?"
Terrible I know. It sounds so caustic, so humanist. But you wouldn't understand unless you've been in my shoes.
Knowing this has caused me to do some of my own personal introspection. To face my own fears. To look into myself, and study my own emotions.
To entertain the terrifying thought about myself---that I could be bipolar. It isn't a very pleasant thought at all.
My older sister has had epilepsy her whole life, which is closely linked with Bipolar. Also, I know OCD runs in my family, which is also linked with bipolar.
And so. I'm sitting here feeling, amused, terrified, and serene all at the same time. Maybe I'm manic. Who knows? I guess being self aware is far more comforting than the alternative---believing that all the emotions you may have are always real. I can call myself out on my own feelings that may be blown out of proportion, bipolar or not. I can laugh when I take myself too seriously.
Heaven knows I don't think I've ever seen hallucinations. But it terrifies me to think I could.
If you're a good friend, you'd tell me I was going off the deep end I would hope? I give you permission.
I now know why I have major panic attacks, why I feel such terrible guilt for silly things that normal people would never even blink about. I'm not trying to self diagnose. But It's good to be aware. Good to laugh about the bogyman, or the nightmares I may have and instead of thinking I'm a terrible person for having a bad dream.
I'll tell you something, though, I think that in a family as large as mine, a little knowledge about bipolar, and little self awareness would have armed our family enough to keep it together instead of dividing us.
At the heart of the problem in my family is the fact that we're all too blind to realize that we may have a problem.
And the problem isn't my mom.
Or the devil.
Or my sister.
Or lack of communication.
Mostly it's lack of understanding. About an illness that affects millions of people.
Someday soon. I like to think that, maybe, just maybe, our family can be united. Maybe, someday, we can all talk, laugh, and cry about it together. We can call, "it" for what it is.
Maybe we can all say the word bipolar without hate, or venom, or fear in our voices, but with understanding.
Maybe we can come to terms that this is who we are. We are equally a part of our father, and mother.
And then there's the fear that comes with knowing the truth---that we could be bipolar too. But so? That does not make us much different from the thousands of other people out there all dealing with their own type of crazy. If we know the foe that we're fighting, we can fight it together. Whatever it is we may face, maybe we can face it together, and help each other cope.
Depression, or manic happy or whatever it is, it's okay.
Just call it by it's rightful name. Don't give any more power to it than it deserves.
Don't try to diminish it, or make it bigger than it is. If someone is depressed it's not because they chose to be. It's not really because of any outside reason at all---they're not sad because of you, me, or them, mostly it's just they probably need more sunlight, exercise, Serotonin and Dopamine.
I'm struck by the fact that I can no longer put people in boxes when viewed in this light. The person with depression, those with weird moods, people with chronic anger, and even those who do nasty things, I see them with more compassion than I thought possible.
I still think they're stinkers. I still think everyone chooses to be who they are in the end. And I know that bad things do happen to make you depressed. But I also know that some things can't be helped by willing it away.
I'm struck with the realization that I can't blame any of my moods on my circumstances.
Though sometimes sad things do happen, and we may cry, or shout, or feel bad, embarrassed, ugly or inadequate.
There's more to happiness than meets the eye. It's been an interesting thing for to me to realize, more certainly than ever, that happiness comes mostly from the inside.
So does unhappiness.
I can't blame anything.
It's interesting to fully understand that no matter the amount of success we achieve, if we are missing a certain neurotransmitter, sunlight, or sleep, that feeling---happiness---will probably not be ours.
Maybe you are the exception. I wouldn't know.
Maybe our greatest happiness lies in a good wholesome meal, a good sleep, doing what we love, and good company.
And all those things we were told would make us happy---the new car, the attainment of fame, or fortune, or any of those lofty goals, no matter how worthy, will never fill the gap.
And then comes the weird thought---that a lot of people who are mean, nasty grumps, are more constipated, or deficient in certain vitamins or minerals than anything else.
These are the strange thoughts I think these days.
Maybe they are bipolar thoughts. It's terrible, but now I question everything I think, or do these days, and wonder if it's because I'm manic, or bipolar, or just depressed. It kind of makes me feel odd.
But there it is. A feeling. And for what it's worth, that feeling will probably pass, to be replaced all too soon with another one.
But when all is said and done, when confronted with someone who is cantankerous, or over anxious, or hyper, or paranoid, I begin to see people with greater compassion than I thought possible.
Chronic anxiety, guilt, depression, or mania is not something you can pray away, or compulsively go around doing good to diminish. No amount of good deeds, or church going will solve it. Though I wish it could. And I do pray a lot about it.
Deep down, I will trust that though I sometimes get confused, God is there. He has a reason for all of this. He understands even my doubts and my confusions.
The stigma of mental illness has to be overcome, broken down, and faced head on for what it is, an inherited disease, like cancer, or heart problems, or a headache that comes and goes.
And to be honest, the problem of bipolar should be viewed as simply as someone with a migraine. You take note of when they aren't feeling well, and you try not to make too much "noise" Or get out of their way, if they're being rude.
If the headache is bad enough, they should take a pill.
Just as a headache makes someone a little cranky, or out of focus--- bipolar, when viewed in the same way, is no different.
Bipolar people aren't stupid, or crazy, or evil. It might blur their vision for awhile, and cause them to hear, see, and feel very strongly whatever it is they are feeling. And sometimes those feelings can be blown out of proportion. So be as gentle and understanding with them as you would with someone who has a terrible headache.
So, that's my advice.
I'm learning. And I'm coming to terms with the fact, that perhaps, I may fit the stereotypical creative manic depressive.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry about it.
Maybe I'll do both. Ha, ha.
But honestly, because I want to be armed with knowledge,
I've done enough research about bipolar and all that pertains to it to fill a dozen textbooks. I know what herbs help, and what types of foods don't. I've learned to recognize triggers, and I've learned that there are many different types of bipolar.
I've read so many accounts of bipolars weird hallucinations that I'm just grateful I and my family are as sane as we are. I know that the devil isn't after us, and bipolar people aren't possessed as many Christians seem to think.
Mental illness isn't devil possession. It's a chemical deficiency in the brain.
I'm not sure if drugs like lithium are the long term answer. I'm an herbalist at heart, and I do believe the body can heal itself of many ills. But I also know that if a simple pill can help to bring a person down from extreme mania, I would do it. I also know that living a calm lifestyle. Eating healthy, and getting enough sleep are key factors in the whole scheme of things.
So far I've come up with a list of things that bipolar people need to be aware of.
Those with bipolar and manic depression need to avoid
Foods that spike their blood sugar---which is pretty much any junk food. White flour, sugar etc.
We need to eat regular meals.
We need lots of Omega oils, like eggs, butter, fish, and fermented cod liver oil.
We need to recognize our triggers. Too much stress, or change of location or too much excitement can all be triggers. (Which is really not cool)
For mania (you know it's coming on if you can't sleep and you have rapid thoughts. Or being more reckless than normal.)
If I feel a little jittery, or can't sleep, I take a b-vitamin supplement or GABA Calm, and that helps even out my anxiety, and stabilize my mood.
Also for mania, exercise is huge. It helps you burn off the excess energy, and makes you feel better. You get all those happy endorphins. This I know helps me!
Also stay away from blue light (TV) screens at night so your sleep wake cycle isn't disturbed. Which is a joke because we are surrounded by screens everyday.
Make sure you get enough sleep. (This one is huge) So probably a night job is out.
For those going into mania sleeping in a completely dark room helps.
I've read that for the depression side of bipolar you need lots of sunlight. And that you need to up your Serotonin, and Dopamine. 5Htp, and SAM-E are natural supplements and good sources of serotonin. But it sounds like they're mostly for the depression (grouchy) side of bipolar. So if you're not careful, too much serotonin could throw you into mania. I'm not sure why, but I'll have to do more research.
Popcorn is a good source of Serotonin.
Raw cashews are another good source (make sure you soak the cashews in water, then dry them so you get all the nutrition out of them you can)
St. Johns Wart is also helpful to some people---for depression.
I know personally what's worked for making me feel more at peace, and calming my nerves is Passion Flower, melatonin, a B complex, fermented cod liver oil, eating my raw egg shakes, avoiding anything that messes up my gut and absorption of vitamins, like GMOS, and MSG, and exercise, eating regular meals, listening to hypnosis mp3s, getting enough sleep, and learning when to step back from too much stress.
Some people say there's no cure to bipolar. Maybe that's true. But that doesn't mean you have to give up hope. It doesn't mean that you are not a person, that your feelings don't matter, and that you cannot be the amazing person you wish to be.
It just means you have to deal with the ups and downs that go with it, and that maybe your ups and downs will feel a little bit more up, and your downs will feel a little more down than the average persons.
But that's okay.
That's the price we creatives pay, anyway.
I probably sound like I've gone completely bonkers.
Maybe I am.
Now you know my secret.
Be that as it may, be it depression, or whatever it is you're dealing with, know this, that some of the most creative, passionate, inspirational, bipolar people have been influences for good---they have been the makers, thinkers, doers, dreamers, and change agents that have brought the world a great deal of spice, sugar and salt.
I think of a quote from Alice in Wonderland.
Mad Matter: "Have I gone mad?"
Alice: "I'm afraid so. You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
― Lewis Carroll,
I don't know.
But I have to believe there's a reason---that who I am, and what I do has meaning. And that I am a person, worthy and willing to live the life I've been given.
Why are there so many problems in the world? Why are there so many illnesses?
I wish I knew.
The past is gone.
The future is obscure.
Here, I can see my feet. And I can see the small path before me. Now is not so bad.
Happiness is within my grasp. Here, now, more than ever.
More than circumstance. More than a place or a person. Or the next book I write, or the next dollar I make, or the next person I meet or in the attainment I seek, or someday when, or on a distant somewhere, happiness is on the inside.
It always has been.
It really, truly is. Right here.