Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Adrenaline Junkie?

I haven't posted in a while and this will be brief. When I'm doing fairly well, I feel more inclined to engage in the logistics of life--you know, catch up on bills, make lofty plans to organize my house and paperwork, and so forth--rather than probe the destructive intricacies of my brain or despair at the purposelessness of my life or of the universe.

So how come I am doing ok right now? Urgency. I have a project that  has outside accountability and a time constraint, and requires organizing but little executing, and is finite in nature. Most importantly, it provokes adrenaline. My therapist suggested I function on adrenaline and that I use crises as an excuse not to do ordinary life. I think he's exactly right.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with cancer (it was early stage, the main treatment phase is over, and I'm doing fine). Friends remarked how well I handled it. I explained that it was nothing compared to bipolar depression. In fact, I did not get depressed for the first six months or so after my diagnosis (and usually I cycle every few weeks). I did remarkably well, mentally.

The crisis status of the cancer diagnosis and treatment offered me several--er--benefits. It initiated an adrenaline surge; it gave me focus & purpose; it gave me a valid reason to lie on the couch and not do housework; and it gave me a sense of urgency for a specific task.

I am not an adrenaline junkie in obvious ways like jumping out of planes or driving recklessly or taking on class 6 rapids. In fact, I will not even risk buying a $70 appliance without conducting copious internet research. My cautious nature may be why I am depressed so much of the time--I thrive on crisis, but I do not seek it out boldly.

What my therapist did not tell me was how to move from a place where I seem only to be happy and productive when adrenaline is pumping through me to a place where I feel ok, and not inordinately depressed and lonely, just doing normal everyday things.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Humans are not meant to live in water; we’re meant to live on land. My funks are when I’m under the water, drowning, sometimes without a will to surface, but required by the need for oxygen to fight to get my head above the waterline, to fight to want to get my head above.

There is a state where I am treading water, so I am not under the water, I can breathe, but it takes constant effort, and I am well aware of the potential to be under the water, and a wave can send me back under easily, or my legs can get tired of treading and I could go back under.

When I am doing well, it is like I am lying on my back floating on a raft, and I don’t see the water or feel it, I breathe air naturally and easily, and I can rest some, and I can generally float about unharmed, until a wave submerges me, sometimes with warning, sometimes without. But I am out in the middle of this vast ocean, far, far from land, and even if I knew which direction to take (which I don’t), I don’t have the means to get there, and I probably also lack the will, because the undertaking would be mind-bogglingly huge.

Meanwhile, I know there are hundreds of thousands of folks on land, dancing and partying and eating and building buildings and developing computer networks and raising families and feeling a sense of identity, contentment, belonging, growth, community. People that are fulfilling their potential.

Me, I’m trying not to drown.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

On Being Alone

I do not do well alone. Partly extraversion. But part of it is that when I’m alone, I spiral down more quickly, my thinking gets more confused, gets more black and white. I feel grounded only in conversation sometimes. Part of why I’m afraid of getting a job is because, at least for a while, you don’t know anybody there but you have to act professional and to me that feels like hiding and that makes me feel more isolated and alone.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Sometimes I think I am capable of so much more, of being so much more. Sometimes I feel like a bundle of greatness trapped inside a warped person. Sometimes I feel the surge of potential pressing against the seams and I purpose to let it burst out and it hits the air and the air stings and burns and scalds and I can only retreat, so defenseless against this acid sky. And then I just sit, and feel just a warped self trapped inside a warped person.

And sometimes I just get caught up in metaphors, and find I’m sitting in the exact same place.

Waiting On Death

I gave up on life several years ago. I descended into a Waiting On Death.

Most of my life over the past six years or so has been waiting on death. It is a warm place where it is easy to float on your back and numb your mind. It feels less like hell then keeping the mind turned on. Though there is a nagging. An irritating nagging. Tap, tap. “This analgesic is only superficial. The infection is real and great.” Too great for healing is my great fear. That is my motivation for so much mental Lidocaine.  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Depression Scene

I took a hiatus for a little while there. Not a good thing to do in the blogging world. But I get absorbed with something for a bit, then quit, then eventually come back around. Not sure how much of that is mood disorder related and how much is my ENFP personality.

Yesterday I tried describing my depression to my husband. I always seem to resort to pictures and analogy when describing depression. I described how failure was the overriding sense of my despair this week. It is filter through which I view and experience everything.

Failure. It colors absolutely everything, the way a gel filter on a stage light saturates the scene with its color. My life is that scene, my brain is the furniture, my memory the floor. My hope is darkened, dissolved into despair.

I sit on this stage the only actor, bathed in brazen red light. The house is dark, no partakers of this story, no one to be moved but me. But I am not moved. Exhausted by the red heat, I slump in this chair, wondering when the light will go out. 

The analogy is dramatic. So in this moment is the reading of it, but that is only because now I am not under that lamp. For today at least, house lights are up, there are a few others in the scene, and I am working on my blocking.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Self Affirmations

My therapy homework the past week includes one of those annoying self affirmations. Ten times a day I am to write “I am enough for myself today.”

I have always hated self affirmations because when I’m in a funk they only magnify the great disparity between who I feel I am and who I believe I should be. My depression brain will twist something “positive” into proof that I am worthless. The statement “I am enough for myself today,” instead of staring me in the soul and insisting on my goodness, will mock me: “Enough? You’re not enough. You are less than. You are inherently flawed, unredeemably messed up, in your core. You will never be enough.”

I have been mildly hypomanic this week so the affirmations have not been difficult. But this morning I woke up with my familiar friend caressing my soul with its whispers of hopelessness, futility, and self hate. I have faithfully lugged my friend around today because he will not detach his talons from me. And an odd thing has occurred. Several times today when my friend has spun my thoughts into the familiar unrelenting vortex of self destruction, the path of the rampage was interrupted by a thought that spontaneously poked through my consciousness: “I am enough for myself today.”

You know what was so surprising about that? It actually calmed me down.

I guess I’ve gotten this whole self affirmation thing wrong all these years. I thought you had to repeat them to yourself when you felt like shit and then you were supposed to strain to believe them until finally your thoughts willed your emotions into place. And that never worked out too well for me. But maybe . . . as you repeat, drink in, soak up as much as possible these thoughts in those few moments of relative clear-mindedness, they settle into your heart bit by bit.

So when the cyclone is tearing across your brain down its familiar path, it might be destructive to shout self affirmations at it, which it will only contort like a mangled street lamp and then fling to the ground, mangled beyond purpose. But if, from some other part of your brain, this affirmation arises on its own, and speaks to the storm, it just might calm it down.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mild Hypomania and Conscious Frogs

I have been mildly hypomanic for the last several days. I just have tons of IDEAS. And grand questions about life. About consciousness and God and evolution and faith and experience and purpose and epistomology and on and on and on. I am not going to get into any of that here, as it's not the focus of this blog. But I just want to run full steam ahead and research and ask and read and write and talk about the depth of life's meaning and how one can KNOW what is REAL.

Interestingly it is to these things that I have often gone when in a funk. Only then it is not exciting and full of possibilities, it is scary and dark and empty and alone. And there is still some of the terror of meaninglessness and unknowability that creeps in even now as I ponder these things.

But mostly I am just on edge, leaning forward, stomach clenched, eyes wide, jaw set, neck rigid, as I devour others' written thoughts, as I fiercely stare into my own mind, as the thoughts roll forth in unceasing rhythm, pounding away at the questions and whittling them into new ones, multiplying my thoughts on the shore of my consciousness.

It's exciting and annoying, this hypomanic state. It is creative, it is deep, it feels meaningful. For all its unproductive productivity, it is so much better than depression.

It's better for me anyway. But I keep pestering my poor scientist husband with questions like, "Do you think there are other sentient beings in the universe?" "Do you think it's morally wrong to eat animals?" "Do you believe God is relational?" "Do you believe that God exists?" "Do you think that frog stuck on our door has consciousness?"

He is a patient and long-suffering man.

Expanded Space

Kim’s comment on my mental illness and cholesterol windows post got me thinking. There is something significant that happens I think when you read someone’s words that seem to capture your own experience with such clarity. It loosens some of the weight, the oppressive heaviness that pushes in on every side. The experience of depression is like a compression in on yourself, dense like a black hole. When you hear someone else describe your experience, it’s almost like the space of your heaviness expands, you realize the room is larger than you thought, that it encompasses more than just yourself. The inward suction is disrupted by an awareness of someone outside yourself but within your same world.  

Monday, May 16, 2011

I wrote that last post a week ago but apparently didn't have the energy to even post it. I'm actually feeling better today. I spent about 3 hours on housework--have not been able to do that in months? Or longer?

I had to get my three-month shot for cancer prevention recurrence several weeks ago, and it left me exhausted, without energy or motivation. Boy if that doesn't play into depression. I spent that time being pretty hard on myself for being lazy. But just like a depression-only induced exhaustion, once I have pulled out of the medication exhaustion, I feel like a normal person (with an ever so slight tinge of hypomania). It is not just a different brain but a different body. I can move about, do things, and have inertia in a positive direction--that is, momentum to keep moving.

And to think, some people feel like this almost every day!

At times like this I feel I have clarity. And the state I'm in when exhausted is not lazy. But goodness knows I will blame myself when I'm back in the black hole.