I took a Xanax at 8 last night and went to bed. Terry was very sweet, he tucked me in then got a cigar and a war movie and went to his cave. I dropped right off, but then was wide awake at 2, and wanted to jump up and do stuff. Instead, I forced myself back to sleep and dreamed about all sorts of really active things, which was kind of fun.
The really good thing about knowing what’s going on is that my psyche kind of rolls with it now. Before I was diagnosed 18 years ago, I would have spells like this and they were terrifying. It seemed like every monster out there would come into my head and I would have these horrible demons standing around, poking my brain with sticks.
Now? I can go”oh…brain chemicals.”
I wish there was some way I could get people to really comprehend that it is not on purpose, that I am not being willfully nuts, or using it as an excuse to get away with something. I do think Terry gets it,and probably Will as well. CJ, however, told me not long ago that he doesn’t believe in mental illness, that people ought to be able to control themselves better.
I think there is an element of that, of people using the urges that come with it as an excuse to get away with bad behavior, and that is what discredits those of us who have a mental disorder. I know there are times that I have urges to do things that could get me in BIG trouble, but I also know that wanting to do something and actually doing it aren’t the same thing. I know that doing the bad thing might feel good for the moment, but the regret that would come later would be magnified by the inevitable depression, and I am REALLY not willing to live with that. Maybe I’m just one of the lucky ones, who sort of understands that there’s a real physiological thing happening, and can maintain a nugget of logic that allows me to recognize pathology from reality. Maybe I’m just a control freak.
I try, so very very hard, to control myself, to keep it all reined in.
Many years ago, soon after I was diagnosed, I started having the panic attacks. They were overwhelming and when one would happen all I wanted to to was run away screaming and hide from the world. It felt like that is the only thing that would work to make it stop. The logical bit of my brain knew that this was all a chemical fritz in my head but that didn’t lessen the feeling (I don’t trust feelings anymore). The pastor of our church at that time also had a PhD in psychology, and was actually a participant in the research into bipolar disorder in the early 1970’s. I met with him and explained the situation, and how frustrating the panic attacks were. He explained it like this:
“You have this internal pressure building up, and you are trying so hard to control it. It is like a teapot filled with boiling water. The steam can come out the normal way, through the spout, but you aren’t allowing that to happen, because you are afraid of the steam and it’s consequences, so you are keeping it in. Only, pressure builds up, and the steam will come out. Maybe the lid will pop off, but then you clamp down on that, too. So rivets are popping, and seams are ripping, and the pressure is coming out in ways it isn’t intended to. That’s why you’re having panic attacks.Let the steam come out the way it is intended to. Don’t be afraid of your emotions, you are controlling them too tightly.”
At that time, the panic attacks happened most often when we went to church. I was fine in a small group like a Bible Study, but in the sanctuary full of people, I’d sweat and shake and it was all I could do to keep from running out of the building. This happened several times, and when I told Dr. Tom (the pastor) about it, he said “No one should have to medicate to worship. You don’t have to come to church until you are ready to.” THAT was probably the biggest sense of relief I’d ever felt. I wanted to worship, but couldn’t. Instead, I took up writing, keeping journal where I wrote letters to God. That lasted for years…it was probably 12 years or more before I felt comfortable in a corporate worship service, and I am tremendously grateful to the wise and kind pastor who actually understood what was going on, and helped in a tangible way, without platitudes or by pulling a bible verse out and throwing it at me.
(He was also about 5’6″, with a full head of white hair, and prone to wearing electric purple silk shirts with white linen pants. Not that *that* is relevant, but I love the picture in my head)
So, what’s going on right now is an attempt at letting the steam out properly. I am trying to redirect the energy of hypomania into something productive, or at least not destructive. There are funny aspects of it, such as
I can’t eat a full meal. Not because I am not hungry- I am actually RAVENOUS- but because I lack the attention span to be interested in an entire hamburger, even one as exotic as a feta stuffed burger with pepperoncini and cucumbers. 2/3 the way through the meal and I’m saying “I’m done…now I’m off to reinvent the wheel (or something).” This morning, I made my favorite breakfast- a sausage McMuffin-type sandwich. I love those things. 2/3 the way through, I tossed it and made some iced tea…actually I made the tea at the same time as making the sandwich, multitasking and all… but I was sick of eating it and wanted a glass of tea.
I took a tranquilizer last night around 8, so I could sleep, and as soon at it wore off…BAM! I was wide awake and wanted terribly to get up and cut out a dress. I had an idea I thought would be really pretty, and so I laid there and plotted it all out in my head, and was sure if I got up and made the dress, I could be finished in time to wear it to church at 11. Agnes McCalvinox*, bless her heart, announced “that wouldn’t be prudent. Go back to sleep so you don’t totally screw up your sleep cycle and wind up spending 6 weeks in a private hospital.” I knew I wasn’t going to sleep, but Agnes was right, so I laid there (unwilling to take another Xanax…I’m a fan of Big Pharma but I don’t wish to rely on it any more than I absolutely have to.) and eventually went back to sleep, where I had dreams full of activity, of cleaning out rooms of clutter and sorting stuff into piles and my cat supervising it all.
Now I am twitchy as hell but feel good. Last night we were watching a movie and Terry said “do you know how I can tell you’re feeling like that? Your leg is dangling off the footstool of your chair and you’re swinging it.” Normally I sit pretty still, very relaxed, but right now a foot is twitching or a leg is swinging, *something* is always moving. That is why I am writing a lot. It keeps my brain focused and fingers moving, and I am actually functioning well. I am multitasking like gangbusters, too. Fingers moving, toes tapping, mind doing several things at once (I wonder if I could find some really dainty lace to put on a collar) (I wonder how I could do an embroidered collar, I need to figure out how to do that) (The herb garden looks like a jungle but I promised David he could clear it but if I clear it now it will probably need it again by the time he gets home and I need to remind Terry to pick up some ground cloth for me). This is what’s called a pressure of ideas…I am thankful that mine are productive pressures, and not wave after wave of criticisms or hateful ideas toward other people.
Now, I know I am writing about this a lot. It is what’s going on at the moment, and I need to get this out there. My strongest hope is that what I am writing will help people UNDERSTAND what’s going on, and will be (maybe?) a bit more understanding of a person who isn’t behaving ‘ normally’ (whatever the hell ‘normal’ might be). I’ve written about accountability recently, this is intended to sort of go-along with that, maybe the flip side of that coin.