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I Walk The Line

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Jakob and me today
It’s a fine line, and I don’t expect many people outside the circle of the Bipolar Club to understand it.

Today was an incredible day. The sun was shining, the moon roof was open, and I felt great as Lynyrd Skynyrd was filling the air around me. It was the kind of day people live for, cherish and truly enjoy.

I, however, walk the line. I walk the very fine line of being able to enjoy what others may realize is truly a great day, and wondering if my joy, my happiness, is only a symptom, and not reality.

And ya know what? It freaking sucks! I really don’t complain much about my disorder, hey, it’s me, I deal with it and get on with life, right? Right.

But it’s always in the back of my mind that happiness, means hypo-mania. Hypo-mania means euphoric days, that may last for weeks, followed by the crash I mentioned earlier in the week.

While I’m not worried about the darkness and the spiral much anymore, I do worry about the crash. I recognize, that at the moment, I’m overloaded. I need a break.

I don’t want to crash. I don’t want to spend days on end in hiding in the attempt to balance what’s become unbalanced. I don’t want to always wonder if my happiness is tied to a defective gene.

I’m hyper vigilant in attempting to notice symptoms, anything out of the ordinary, that may signal I need to “re-arrange” things a bit.

The truth is that I’m scared. I’m scared to freaking death of letting this unintentional, inherited flaw control my life. I’m tired of always wondering if my joy is real or only a symptom. I feel I’m allowing it to win. That scares me.  

 It makes me afraid and I don’t like afraid. 


No, Pink Floyd Didn't Assist

Monday, March 25, 2013

I’ve done it! Really I did! And oh am I feeling the effects. I’ve hit the wall, and not with the help of Pink Floyd.

The hypo-mania, that visits from time to time, always seems to come with a bit of a crash. Today, it is here. Not as bad as times before, but definitely here. However, maybe that’s not what it is. I’ve been working non-stop on an insurance issue, some contract irritants with a new company, a few family things, and a myriad of other little annoyances that seemed to have cropped up along the way.

Tonight I totally crashed. Every noise was amplified, I didn’t want to be touched, I didn’t want to be spoken to, I didn’t want to do anything but go to my room, get in my bed and attempt to exist in solitude.

I kind of feel like a game of Jenga when that one piece has been removed that allows the rest to come tumbling down in a heaping mess.

It took every ounce of energy I had to make dinner and not use the cheese grater as a tool of torture. I kept it solely for the cheese. So I think I did pretty well. Everyone is still in one piece, there was no flesh in the Croque Monsieurs, and I, well, I am in bed. Accomplishment!

Everything’s quiet, but my heart is still racing, my breathing shallow and my jaw is clenched. I need to, want to, sleep, but I have a feeling it’s going to be difficult to do so tonight, well, I should say….more difficult than most nights.

I have to be careful what I ingest to help my decent into the much needed land of dreams and deep breathing. I have an, for me, early appointment tomorrow.

I’m meeting with a friend to see if she can help me understand my new camera. I think I should call it my “manic camera.” Impulse buy. Not even going to open the credit card bill, I’ll just pay it and no one will ever have to know. Except that "no one" is extremely detail oriented and notices every, single thing. Great for his job, and our clients, not so great for me.

Him, "That's new."

Me, "You're crazy."

Him, "You know I notice everything."

Me, "No shit! You're a man damn it! You're not supposed to notice every. little. thing. I. get."

Him, "Don't you like that I notice everything about you?"

Me, "Not really. I have to hide things for a REALLY long time before I can say that I bought them eons ago."

He called me when I was at Nordstrom yesterday. He asked me where I was and I hesitated a bit too long. He knew where I was. I swear he had a GPS system implanted in me while I slept one night.

"Teri, NO new lingerie! You must have $10,000 worth in your closet."

He takes all my fun. I put the lingerie back on the rack and pouted all the way to the car.

Back to meeting with my friend. I’m really looking forward to seeing her, even though she told me to wear “comfortable” shoes. I’m not really sure what those are. But she did narrow it down to “no stilettos.” There goes the outfit I had planned for tomorrow. I guess I need to search through my massive shoe collection and find a pair of, much neglected, Nikes.

(Nikes, I have this weird compulsion to be loyal to all of our Nike clients. All my work out gear, all my tennis shoes, everything is Nike.) 

I’m excited to see my friend though! I’m going to try to put work off for tomorrow, as much as I can, and attempt to calm my system. What’s funny is that I always felt like this before I was diagnosed and medicated. It was the norm. I never knew what they meant when they, being psychiatrists, asked if I felt as if I were being run by a motor. Now I know, and I don’t much care for it. I get a lot done, but I hate the crash, as does everyone that comes in contact with me when it happens.

Such is life, for me anyway.

Oh, and by the way, I'm really pissed with Louis Vuitton. I've been a loyal customer, bags, wallets, credit card holders, luggage....... One of my bags is beginning to crack. I took it in for them to look at and was told they have no warranty! What? You've got to be freaking kidding me? A company like that has no warranty? Total bullshit. 

If you find errors in this, grammatically, punctuation, whatever, just ignore them and we'll forget they every happened.

Dios me ayude.



They Should Post Warnings For People Like Me

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I saw it. I liked it. I bought it. Should have been the end of the story, but nooooooooo, not in my house, not in my world.

I really didn't think it through, which was evident yesterday afternoon. It's an absolutely beautiful Free People "Belladonna" dress. And that, is where it all began. Well, actually it began with a half bottle of wine, a credit card, an Ambien and the most dreaded symptom of hypo mania.....insomnia.

Wine, Ambien. hypo-mania, insomnia, a credit card and a lap top mean things tend to show up from time to time that I have no memory of purchasing. Oh, I have to admit something else showed up today. It's in the back seat of my car, waiting. It's waiting because I'm too afraid to bring it in the house and too in love with it to send it back. So, patiently it waits while I come up with a reason to justify it remaining a member of the family.

The night I ordered the dress I should have read the description a little more closely, or maybe pictured the description with clearer vision, before I clicked "purchase."

"Crochet high-low dress with "V"-neckline and crisscross straps in the back."

Sounds simple, right? The clues are all there, "crochet," "high-low," and, "crisscross straps in the back." They were proudly displayed beside the picture of the much coveted dress.

Simple. To the point. And so very dangerous.

The UPS guy rang the bell, Nikki ran to the door and grabbed the package. I asked her to open it.  When I looked at the dress, as she shook it out, I thought it might be a little too short for me in the front.

"Mom, go try it on. I'll tell you if it is too short and if it is I'll buy it from you."

Sounded like a perfect plan at the time. I grabbed the dress, went to my room and began to undress. When I was ready to try the dress on, I remembered it said, "crisscross straps in the back."

No problem, I had it. I fooled around with it for a few minutes, trying to get my arms through the correct straps, so the crisscross would actually be in the back and the "high" part of the dress in front. It also has a slip lining. Crisscross back, slip lining, always a bit tricky. You'd have to be a girl to know that I guess.

I finally thought I'd figured it out. Got my arms and head through the straps of the dress, then the next over looked danger sign, "crochet." Oh, Lord God in Heaven.

I wear a Tiffany bracelet on my right wrist, and on that bracelet dangles a jet charm that has propellers that spin. It''s to remember my father, a jet pilot. The problem with that charm is that it tends to get caught on my clothes. Yep, you got it.

Crochet and jet propellers do not mix. I ended up in the precarious position of the dress half on, arms all twisted over my head, I couldn't move. I couldn't get the charm out of the crochet. I couldn't do anything. I yelled for Nikki to come to my aid and try free me from the giant tangled mess of black crochet, straps and jet propellers.

It took her a minute, but she was able to work her magic and free the propellers from the fabric without damage to either. Then I wriggled into the dress, pulled down the lining and something wasn't quite right. It fight strangely. I couldn't get it straight.

"Mom, I think you might have it one sideways. I'll look for the tag."

She found the tag, and sure enough, hands and head were put through the wrong straps. I thought it would be easy to just take my arm out, twist the dress and all would be good.

As if! The dress is made to be form fitting, meaning tight.  I tried to get my arm out and it wasn't happening. As I tried to remove said arm, I began to spin in a circle. Nikki was laughing hysterically. The more I tried, the more I spinned, and the more Nikki laughed.

Then I lost my footing and fell into the counter top, still all tied up in the beautiful, crocheted, high low dress with the crisscross in the back.

"Mom, STOP! You're going to fall into the bathtub and kill yourself!" All this said while laughing to the point of crying. She has a bronchial infection, so her laughter sounded more like a barking seal. She couldn't catch her breath. She was bent over at the waist, laughing, crying, and barking.

She laughed herself nearly to death as I struggled. Finally I was able to get my arm out, turn the dress, pull down the slip, and was able to see how it looked. It looked great! It was short in the front, but not too much, it would be fine. It fit perfectly. I loved it!

Then, well then I realized I had to take it off.



It May Not Be Your Choice, But It Is Mine

Sunday, March 17, 2013

There have been many times I've been sucked into the depths of hell, sometimes from my very lucid bad decisions, sometimes from my neurons not firing the way another person's may fire, sometimes I've been thrown in by another, and sometimes it just happens.

There are times I see the world in black and white, other times I see it in full, vivid technicolor. There are blessings, and curses, that are attached to me as a person living with a disorder too often misunderstood, and feared, by the world in general.

What I've come to understand in the last few years, the years that I've grown enormously as a person, as well as dropped the ball time and time again, letting down not only those around me, but myself as well, is that no matter what affliction I've inherited I have to realize that I have to take full responsibility for those times, as well as the times others have intentionally, or not, given me a little nudge, into that hellish depth of darkness and demons.

I can't always control what happens in my life, or what others choose to do that affect me, but I am trying to ensure I accept responsibility for my reactions in those times. It's not always easy, or evident, to me at the time what I need to do, but it is something I work toward on a daily basis, and truthfully, I still kind of suck at it.

Even though there have been times that, purely by the luck of the draw, bipolar has controlled my abilities to see things clearly, and has been the cause of choices I made, I can't place sole blame on it.

It's my responsibility to keep myself in check. It's my responsibility to control something that all too often tries to control me. I made a firm decision, many years ago, not to play the victim card. I also made the choice to share my journey with the world, to come out of the shadows and take control of my life, and hopefully allow people to see that, while sometimes I do struggle, I'm really no different than they are.

Someone said to me the other day that I'm happy, outgoing and friendly with people that "don't matter" in my world, those outside the circle of the family core, and that I rarely allow people, those so called unimportant people, to see me when I'm at my worst.

I chose to try not to let bipolar be the puppet master, not to control my life and not to be a crutch on which to blame my failures. I made a choice to attempt to break the stigma, and attempt to take control of something I had no choice in being afflicted with. I don't always succeed, but I try.

I try not to allow the times I experience the dark realities of the disorder to be seen by others that "don't matter." Those are the times I've learned to rely on a very select group of people to lean on. That group does not include the entiriety of family, but is made up of people I trust to know that it's a momentary glitch in time and not the sum total of who I am.

I do believe that it is my responsibility to be outgoing, to be friendly, to smile, to attempt to understand that which I don't, and to respect those around me in this world we all occupy. The truth is that those people that "don't matter," really do matter. If I only help one person see that labels are not always something to be feared, I've accomplished what I set out to do. If I can encourage others that are afflicted, as I am, that they can take control of their lives, that they can be accepted, that they can lead a productive life, then I've done so much more than I set out to do.

I don't always succeed, I don't always reach my goal, I don't always make the right choice, but I can say with confidence that I try, and I will continue to do so.




Thursday, March 14, 2013

I knew it would manifest, so when it raised it's head and peeked through the shadows, where it had been hidden for so long, I wasn't surprised. I wasn't surprised by my reaction to its ability to hold me hostage, and its attempt to take control of not only my life, but my inner most being as well.

Actually, to be truthful, it's like visiting an old friend, one that you haven't seen in years, yet are able to pick up where you left off as if no time had passed. 

It's strangely comforting, while at the same time, frightening. I've missed it, longed for it, if only for a short time. I knew, however, that its presence could instigate darkness, confusion and potentially harm.

Even though I knew it was inevitable, it came upon me slowly, as if it were stalking its prey. I guess in a sense it was, and in the in end, it captured me. I need to enjoy it while it lasts, as well as try to tame it, and send it back into the shadows.

It has a clinical name, hypo-mania, as well as physical feelings of jubilation, freedom, happiness and a sense of all being right with the world. Then why, many would ask, is it something I need to be circumspect with? Feeling wonderful and full of life is a good thing, and for many it is.

However, for me, it's something to be carefully monitored. I have a difficult time discerning whether my mood is just the typical good mood of an outgoing person, or if it is a symptom of something that could possibly consume my soul.

I'm angry that I've been put in the position of being tempted to go with the flow, and ride the wave of sunshine and rainbows, I'm angry that I'm tempted to toss all the meds and allow this feeling, the feeling I associate with the "real" me, to be freed from its cage and allowed to fly unencumbered.

I can't allow myself to go with the flow. The symptoms of hypo-mania are prevalent and I know them well enough to call them by name, to recognize them for what they are, and to know to try my best to keep them at bay. If I allow them to take me, as I'm so tempted to do, I know there will eventually be a fall that will be deep and a darkness will envelope me.

There is an upside of the spiraling fall, my creativity will thrive, my writing style will become more poetic, lyrical,  and insightful. Most of my best pieces were written while being tightly held in the talons of the demons the fall brings. I can't allow that to happen, others will be pulled in with me, and their lives will be affected. They will become hyper vigilant and my every movement will be monitored.

Even though I enjoy the overwhelming feelings of joy the hypo-mania brings forth, I'm angry a doctor that solely deals with the physical body, and knows very little of afflictions of the mind, demanded I toss one of my most critical medications. I'm angry that I was put in a position of having to defy his warnings and defend the regimen that has kept me stable for a very long time. I'm angry that I yielded and insisted I would only half the dose, not stop it.

Since I have realized what is really happening, I've taken appropriate action and conferred with the man that is responsible for the stability of my moods. I will resume his recommended dose of the forbidden medication, and I will increase another one slightly.

If I'm lucky, I will be able to hang on to the best of my personality, and quell the sleepless nights, the ever present need to be doing something, to be doing anything, and other tell-tale symptoms of hypo-mania.

I will enjoy it while it lasts, I will mourn its passing and I will rejoice when stability, once again, enters my life.



It's Worth a Try

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I'm always up for all things new, as my credit card will attest, but this time I'm a little anxious.

I have, and always have, had trouble falling asleep. I guess that kind of goes hand in hand with bipolar, or so I'm told. When I lie down, close my eyes and try to sleep is typically when I have the racing thoughts that plague so many people with the disorder. My mind won't calm, and therefore I can't sleep.

I saw my psych today and we tried to come up with a solution. I don't like all I have to take to be able to do what so many take for granted. Every night, when I take the vast array of medications, I fear I may make the Heath Ledger exit. I don't like the thought and I don't like having to take the meds.

When I brought it up to him, he talked about various options, searched his vast collection of research on the topic, and then came up with an idea, as long as weight gain isn't a side effect, I'm game.

He's had several patients that had previously described the very things I am experiencing. He put them on a quick release dose of methylphenidate, which is generic Ritalin, which is a stimulant. They reported back to him that it worked, it quelled the bouncing thoughts and allowed them to sleep.

The theory being that Ritalin helps release dopamine, which acts to calm the over active thoughts and actions caused by low levels of the chemical in some brains. Whatever, I don't really understand the whole thing, I just have trust in my doctor.

Tonight will be my first night taking it, and if all goes according to theory, my thoughts will calm and I'll be able to sleep.

He also asked how my general mood had been since we stopped one of my medications that helps control mania. The side effects I was experiencing were concerning to say the least. But I've done well, I think, and Jeff said he's been noticing I'm more level than he's seen me in years. Plus, I'm still on a half dose of another mood stabilizer that has no side effects, so all's cool.

But, isn't there always a "but?" But, I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm on the outer edge of the beginning of hypo-mania. That can be a very good thing though. My mood is great, my creativity is more prevalent, and I seem more like myself, I feel good, the sun shines and all is right with the world.

The bad thing, the thing I need to watch for, is the urge to spend. That's a huge signal for me, but I recognize it as a symptom and can work to avoid places I shouldn't be, like Nordstrom, or Free People's website, or any place with lingerie or shoes. I guess that leaves me with going to the grocery store where I can search for exotic stuffed olives and weird things I'd never before bought.

Now I'm rambling, so I guess it's time for the first dose of the, hopefully, miracle drug. 

Here goes. Wish me well!




Darkness filled the room, as I lay with my head cocooned between two pillows, and nothing but a sheet covering my shoulder. My yorkie was curled up in the crook of my abdomen. I could feel the deep movement of her little body with each breath the tiny, four pound dog took. I felt her radiating warmth as she lay soundly, sleeping beneath the sheet, and next to my skin.

The only real sound I could discern was the whir of the overhead fan. Then there were the crashing noises of the never ending jumble of words racing nonsensically through my head. They played out the scenes from just hours before. I tried mightily to get them to slow to a tolerable simmer, but they would not not obey my pleadings and came to a full, rolling, boil. In my spirit I could still feel his eyes upon me from earlier in the night.

The evening began as any other, he on his side of the bed and I was on mine. He was watching TV while I was going over the inventory of my new business venture. I was counting charms, lockets and chains, and forming a list for the night's order. My back was to him as I worked, but I could sense his eyes upon me. I could feel the intensity of of his stare as he watched me and wondered.

I turned to face him and his blue eyes, reddened by the proceeding sleepless nights and non stop business of work, were looking back deeply into mine. I could sense his heart was heavy, and his soul still burdened by the misunderstandings, and harsh words, spoken out of frustration, anger, and spite, from days before.

I asked him what he was thinking as he continued to stare, even though I already knew, and he followed the usual script and said simply one word, "nothing." I gave him a smile, and ran my hand along the firm muscles in his arm. When I reached his hands I felt his fingernails, so soft, smooth and comforting for some reason unknown.

I had my list to guide me through my ordering so I turned away once more, reached for my laptop and began to place orders that had come in. As I typed, he protectively put his rugged hand, weathered from many years in the hot Texas sun, across my waist.

While typing, I continued to feel his eyes upon me and once again felt the heaviness of his spirit. Again, I turned my head and looked back into his eyes. Already knowing the answer, I once more asked what was on his mind, and once again he declined to answer. But I knew.

I knew he was feeling distant from me, from us as a couple. I think the sleepless nights from the pain of arthritis and a knee that needs to be replaced, also factored into the loneliness he was experiencing. When he manages the building of homes or remodels, his pain level is almost non existent, but he had been working physically for the last few weeks helping our crew frame a new project.

That's one thing about him I can't get him to stop. He refuses to step back and allow others to do most of the physical work. He's involved physically, and mentally, from the very inception of a project to its completion. He wants to make sure the quality he demands is up to his level of perfection.

Even though I knew the exhaustion and pain he was experiencing was part of what I was seeing, I also knew our relationship was the majority of what was weighing on him. Stress has been visiting our home all too frequently, from clients that run short of funds, to the illnesses of our children, to the day to day strain of life and trying to run a business in this economy.

He feels alone, and to some extent he's correct. I try to help with his pain, but there's really nothing I can do but offer support and Tylenol. He wants, he needs, more. He needs to know that I'm standing beside him, that he's important to me, and he is, extremely so.

I realized, as I looked back into his eyes, that he wants more of my companionship, more of my time. I've been so busy trying to get finances to work, and consumed with  trying to get this other business off the ground, that I think I've lost him in the shuffle of the chaos of my own day to day life.

We were planning to get away for our 25th anniversary in April, but suddenly realized that we had other commitments and could not take the time off. We were looking forward to time alone, with no children, no cell phones, and no internet, just us, but it's not to be. We can always do it in May, but that's not when our actual 25th anniversary falls, so, it's just not the same.

What he was looking for, while he gazed at me, was that "spark" that was there from the beginning that somehow, in day to day life, got lost along the way. It got lost between special needs children, grandchildren, ridiculous family squabbles, and business, to name just a few. I need to make it my mission to do my best to help bring it back, to make him understand that I am here, he's not alone.

He needs to understand the he's first, and as the head of the household, is to be the most respected. He's confessed, although will not admit it, that he's feeling alienated by all of his children, and by me. I need to make sure that I, at least, do my part to calm his spirit and allow him to "really" know that I am beside him, and I always will be.

Now, perhaps, the noise will have left my head and I can put away my laptop, close my eyes and sleep. Tomorrow is a new start, with new priorities and new goals that will hopefully lift the heaviness from his spirit.



The Anticipated Pain

Monday, March 4, 2013

The anticipation of the first sting of the bundled needles is something that cannot be explained to someone that has not yet experienced its allure.

That anticipation is heightened when the distinctive sound of the machine signals its awakening. Waiting, with my breath held, is surreal and adrenaline surges through my body while I wait impatiently for that first light touch of the artist.

The feeling, along with the knowledge that ink is being injected beneath the first layer of my skin, is addicting.

For some, the art of tattooing is taboo, something only to be had by the lowest members of society, sailors, bikers, and the like. "No," they say time and time again, "you can't do that."

Well, yes, yes I can. We all have choices, and while I may make some another would not, they have made choices I would have not.

Although I have wondered, at times, if my longing for that distinctive feeling of the machine, the pain,  against my skin is somehow connected, in the recesses of my memory, to self destructive deeds of the distant past. Of that, I'm not sure, I can only speculate.

I only know that I eagerly await the date, the time, and the minute, that the man will apply the stencil he drew especially for me. He firmly rubs it against my body and then removes the paper, leaving a faint outline, for approval.

It's not yet real, not until the singing of the machine lyrically fills the air and the enticing pain is felt as the permanent ink is deposited, and I breathe deeply and settle in for the endurance of the project. 

There are times when a nerve is hit and I hold my breath, tighten my body and grimace, until the artist moves the machine, ever so slightly, to another position, another area. I sit in his chair for hours until the finishing touches are completed, and only then I'm able to see the finished piece of art, my art. It belongs to no one but me, and there will never be another one like it, the stencil is thrown away. The piece is unique, as am I.

For those that have words of scorn, I have no need. I am me, and I have confidence in who I am, and what I can accomplish with, or without, my embellishments.

My first, and probably last, un-coverable piece


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