November 20, 2010

raining starfire- my facebook note

I can be one of those annoying people who talks endlessly about what's on their mind. Of course, I can also be one of those people who successfully hides anything they don't want others to know. Perhaps that's yet another bipolar tendency- two conflicting traits existing strongly in the same person.

I write this note in order to share. They say, after all, openness fights the stigma, right? In the midst of a particularly harsh depressive cycle (episode? period? I don't even know the correct official clinical term), so many tough questions have risen to the surface. I search for some kind of helpful nugget in an attempt to take a little responsibility for my craziness. The seeds of information found in books or online grow into concepts that swirl in my head as they process. I attempt to balance the annoying chatter by writing. I know I can put my friends through a lot with this tornado called bipolar disorder. At least by writing, you can choose to read.

Yes, a tornado. No wonder I love storms so much. How rare and spectacular when the outside world matches my insides? If I could paint a picture of my bipolarness, it would be raining starfire. Sad, destructive, and yet beautiful.

Can you believe I just said that? Beautiful? In the six years since the official diagnosis, I have attributed many adjectives to this mental disorder (or mental illness, an even uglier term). "Beautiful" has NEVER been used. Clinging to a single scripture was the only honest good point in the long lists of negative challenges.

"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Then I discovered THIS. Sitting on our couch with my laptop and Tootsie warming my feet, I could only cry after reading it. Though I can't yet articulate words behind those tears, I want to share the list with you:


1. Above average compassion.
2. Acute intuition.
3. Empathetic and non-judgemental.
4. An ability to see the "big picture".
5. Spontaneous attitude towards life.
6. An ability to experience the emotions of happiness and unconditional love on a much purer and deeper level than a "normal" person.
7. Persons with bipolar disorder tend to be either creative, artistic, musical or scientific geniuses.
8. Spiritual leadership qualities.
9. Compassionate.
10. Well, we're not boring!!! Like a box of unmarked chocolates, sometimes you bite into us, you get that icky maple crap, then there is that orange creamy stuff which is okay...sometimes you get that chewy toffee caramel that sticks around, but one thing is for sure...eventually, you will get one that's got NUTS! Crunchy and yummy nuts!

(credit where it's due: full article at

I have seen myself in so many descriptions of bipolar disorder, though they are all undesirable symptoms. But I can find myself in parts of this list, a list of good side effects (?). Ironically, it's still a lot to process.

Thousands of dazzling meteors falling out of the sky, sizzling as they land. A night sky weeping and destroying with a blazing twinkle. Endless tears, horrible decisions, energetic mania. My own bipolar. Raining starfire.

November 18, 2010

eh eh… nothing else i can say

It’s not even nine o’clock yet. It seems much later, since the sun sets so early these days. It seems much earlier, since I’m caffeinated from an afternoon peppermint mocha. The two balance out, and it actually feels exactly as it is: not even nine o’clock.

My chosen evening activity is not-attending-the-midnight-showing-of-Harry-Potter. i have nothing against the series nor any interest. There’s plenty of work to be done, since most of my time today was devoted to writing spots for the radio station and some homework. But since it’s nearing nine o’clock, it’s late enough to lose interest in the productive yet still have energy to still do something. But there’s only so many things to do alone (particularly with the nagging unfinished tasks that still clamor for attention).

Despite the rush to Christmas, today was a lovely pre-Thanksgiving afternoon. Always eager to take advantage of a good deal, Kelly and I walked around the corner to Starbucks for buy one/get one free holiday drinks. Though Starbucks is usually most guilty for premature Christmas, I was pacified by the emphasis on “holiday” drinks and noticeably absent carols. A peppermint mocha can be Thanksgiving-y, too.  There were no decorations beyond the menu board and autumnal window decals- a definite win over yesterday’s Big Lots excursion underscored by Frosty the Snowman and some song about about Santa going to a party (complete with obnoxious ho-ho-ho’s) at a volume too high to ignore.

The crisp, cool air and wonderfully warm spice-scented candle melt thing Kelly brought home wrapped the mood in a nice metaphorical harvest-colored bow. Even the smooth blue of the water and lovely old-building scent of the post office were savory details. This current depressive cycle has brought my disorder to the front burner, causing difficult questions and emotions to re-emerge. Cherishing the present is a highly underrated coping skill, and if the smell of basil and cilantro in the garden patch (or the brilliant emerging red of our budding strawberries!) can soothe anxiety, then it’s better than any medication. Besides, someone has to stand up for the lovely details of Thanksgiving; the oft-neglected holiday has become an “unfortunate” speed bump on the expressway to Christmas.

November 13, 2010

making it work

If you drive from our doorstep, down the main street of our town, you can only go two miles before it ends. If you turn right, you will be treated to a beautiful drive on a cliff overlooking the ocean. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see Catalina island pretty well. But if you go straight, you’ll end at a little park hosting a lighthouse and a small outdoor stage (as well as the obligatory picnic tables and playground).

i had to get out of the house yesterday. Working from home has many perks, but it also leads to a touch of cabin fever. So I threw my notebooks into a bag, strapped a leash on Tootsie, and took that two mile drive to the park.

We were rewarded with a beautiful November afternoon. Shorter autumn days are lit by warm golden sunlight. A few leaves crunch underfoot, but most stay green and dutifully attached to their tree branches. The park isn’t large, so we circled it a couple times so Tootsie could get her energy (and other things) out before we settled down to work. I chose a tree- I need to still learn its name- who’s roots crawled around the base before diving deep to anchor it in the ground. Comfortably cradled and shaded by a canopy of sun-filtering leaves, i looked across the glittering blue to sailboats and barges. My new natural office wasn’t too far from the cliff edge (don’t worry, a solid concrete wall prevents any accidental wandering), so the steady roll of seawater against the rocks below quickly dissuaded me from drowning out such calm wonder with my ipod.

There I worked as seagulls glided overhead, using little energy against the sea breeze (they’re really not as annoying when they’re flying by, as opposed to crapping on my car or scavenging my beach snacks). This is why I left my cubicle, and never want to return.

November 01, 2010

deconstructing the madness

Some days, I feel like a decent version of normal. Other times, I am only slightly eccentric enough to be interesting. And occasionally, it feels like there’s a giant “mental disorder” sign brightly lit over my head.

In the years since the official bipolar diagnosis, I have learned to channel the crazy energy in increasingly healthier ways. Thankfully, I have also learned to prevent emotions from escalating into uncontrollable and socially unacceptable levels. Usually.

The analytical part of me wants to take each piece of craziness apart, examine it, and reassemble myself in a more manageable way. Anxiety levels are creeping up now, thanks in part to a lot of life busyness while being in a depressive cycle.

My mind works differently. The racing chaos of mania dissolves into a twisted spaghetti-like mass of thoughts like:

Feeling alone, even when surrounded by a bunch of great people.

i hate being vulnerable.

“But to cry in front of you, that’s the worst thing I could do.”

Scenes play out as they did this afternoon. My computer sat on the kitchen counter, and I stood in front of it, trying to decide my next move. Work on homework? Work on church? Get dressed first? Choosing one thing means neglecting all the others. And forget focusing on that one thing while thinking about those others. It doesn’t help that the flurry of the weekend’s activities has left our house in disarray. I can’t think straight with all the clutter. Must. Clean. Now.

And that’s how I found myself passionately scrubbing the stovetop. Part of me acknowledged that this coping method beats the crap out of previous bad habits. Another part wonders if crazy motivation cancels out the normalcy of the task. A tiny part says to screw it and just return to those previous bad habits. The ones that temporarily soothe and calm, all the while actually making life more complicated.

But I finish the stove. Next, I’ll move on to the counter. Then the floors, then the bathroom, then my bedroom. When the house feels clean, I will channel the energy into work somehow. Before I know it, I will be tired and it will be bedtime. Another day completed, survived.

Back in the therapy days, we identified that I take on a lot when I’m manic, but become overwhelmed when faced with the ambitious workload later. This month, I’ll be practicing NOvember again. I’ll keep current commitments, but will not be making any new ones.Though this means not going on fun outings or accepting new projects, it allows me to dig out from under this heavy pile of class work, church tasks, and miscellaneous life-in-general. It’s a rest before the insanity (and joy) of December’s Christmas season. No matter what, Christmas is always good.

That’s the joy of bipolarity. What comes down must go up.