Chapter 16: Bipolar For Life. Alone.

30 Jan

 

aafsnet“Don’t explain. Your friends do not need it, and your enemies will not believe you.”

I am alone.

It’s liberating really. For the first time in a long time, I can do what I want, when I want. I don’t have to wait around for anyone. I can say what I think without risk of hurting anyone’s feelings. For the first time…it really IS all about me.

IMG_20140129_083118_resizedHowever, every time I’m in line at the grocery store, I feel like it’s screamingly obvious, with my frozen gluten-free pizza and two bananas that I am living solo and going home to watch an entire season of Sherlock in one shot. When my new car insurance binder came, it hit me in plain black and white English: “Female, Single”. I thought maybe it should just say “Separated, Confused”.

My last bipolar blog left off with a bit of  a question mark, since I was in an open ended experiment: Marital separation, working on fixing a place up to live and dealing with issues related to medications.

Newly solo and avoiding pretty much all aspects of the opposite sex in anything other than friendship has been an adjustment for me but it’s a conscious choice. I didn’t want to repeat the same patterns in my life. You know…taking up with another relationship before the first was over. I wanted to have time to just be me and not have anyone else thrown into that mix.  

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I’ve been living alone now for 4 months and am finding many things about this new status lovely. I bought a little villa and made it my own this autumn. You may recall me lamenting about the disastrous state the former owner left the yard in and how much it cost to fix overgrown bougainvillea full of thorns (yanked and replaced with palms), sand with fleas (sodded), a rotting blue-grey deck with no shade and a sagging fence. It’s now beautiful and there’s an outdoor room I call My Sanctuary. All the plants, rocks, solar lights and water-and-dog proofing of furniture were well worth it. Plus the garden saves me money and tastes better than anything I could buy. I am so grateful to the fans who sent things off my Amazon wish list or Lowes gift cards. It was well spent on a special mix of peace and sanity (whatever that might be) and I thank you deeply.

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Other activities have helped; I started fiction writing classes in December and love it. I’ve discovered that I have a rather twisted mind and penchant for bloody deaths. I don’t exactly feel creative like I did before being on medications, but when pushed by others or inspired, I can still pull it out of my ass. My writings run the gamut from futuristic science fiction, politics, poetry, children’s stories, memoirs, to fitness & nutrition. tumblr_me0mb9M9YK1rj11who1_500_largeSpanish lessons are now on my agenda again. Esto me hasto feliz. I even tried a new recipe, coconut chicken. It turned out fabulous. Normally, I survive on coffee, protein shakes, bacon and eggs, liquid pasteurized egg whites, rice chips, unsweetened applesauce and whatever is around that can be eaten raw, like bananas, almonds and dates. These are kind of big things for me as compared to the past year.

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I’m also in quite a few comic books coming out soon.  THAT is truly living the dream. 

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However, most of all, in my quest for feeling normal (notice that I don’t say BEING normal), I may have finally hit on a mix of chemicals that makes my own mix of chemicals stabilize correctly. I was diagnosed bipolar (which USED to be called Manic-Depressive, but they changed the name because people were confusing it with “Depression”) over two and a half years ago and it’s taken me THIS LONG to get sorted out.

Here’s a glimpse into the ordeal. A small glimpse… The good Doctor W: “Lithium. This will fix you. No change? You’re still a lunatic, huh? A sleepy lunatic? Ok. I’ll add in the mood stabilizer Lamictal. Feeling better? Yes? Good. Oh, after a while that sometimes happens…you get used to it and a depression hits. Let’s go back to some Welbutrin for your anti-depressant in there too. I know you don’t want to gain weight…Welbutrin is the only one that doesn’t cause weight gain or loss of sex drive, so relax. Migraines that make you puke as a side effect? Let’s do Topamax. I think you’re not sleeping. Let’s try a bunch of shit that makes you a zombie all day long and then settle on Xanax which you won’t really use because you hate drugs and you’re just going to find that GABA, magnesium & 20 mg of melatonin work better  anyway. OK, let’s stop the Lithium. Crap, it messed up your thyroid. I didn’t say “ruined”, I said “sluggish”. Well, technically, yes…that means it’s ruined. I’m putting you on Cytomel. Still sluggish? Let’s lower the Lamictal and raise the Welbutrin. No? All right…you might need Abilify ($$$) or Nuvigil ($$$$$$$$$$$$) but let me try something first. I have a feeling this will work and it’ll be a whole lot less expensive if it does. Let’s double your thyroid meds and see how you feel.” Bingo. It was the Cytomel thyroid medication that did the trick, of all things. After playing around with all the psyche drugs, simply doubling my thyroid med that is what woke me up. I lost 15 pounds, which is probably a few too many since people keep asking me if I’m getting ready to do a fitness competition, but it’s a side effect. Another side effect: nothing fits. After buying a house and Lamictal, I can’t afford clothes!

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The chemical journey is not over; my doctor said medications will be an ongoing experiment for life. The human body gets used to something and then it’s time to mix it up again, especially when it’s a neurological something. To make matters so much worse, bipolar drugs are far from an exact science or even close to accurate. It’s not like diabetes where you monitor, use the correct medicine, live life. It’s as fucking crazy as we are. Perhaps, one day, they’ll get it down to more of a science like they have with diabetics? (Comparatively speaking, of course. I am not in any way saying that living with diabetes is easy at all.  I’m saying that if most of us could control our disorder by diet and exercise, life would be good….and much cheaper. Even daily blood testing and shots would be an upgrade. A lot of cardio issues come along with bp that most don’t know about in the forms of heart and lung issues. We tend to die young.) I can only hope…

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I’m a rapid cycling manic. I have been my entire life, which means I am on the crazy, daredevil, ass kicking, outspoken, stay up all night, workaholic, “yes-I-can-fly-to-a-foreign-country-that-speaks-no-English-alone-tomorrow” end of bipolar disorder. Trust me…it’s the better end. Being through a year and a half on the other side of that spectrum was terrible. I’ve never dragged so much in my life. Fog Brain: you feel like you’re in a tunnel full of thick, endless fog and you can’t see anything in front of, or around you. There is no future. It’s exhausting to merely survive without actually living. No creativity. No memory. My Bipolar Gift, gone. I’ve never just NOT given a crap…apathy isn’t me. This shit is unreal, and anyone who tells someone with depression to “just get over it” should be kicked in the junk, hard, and repeatedly.  Trust me, if they could, they WOULD. Sadness is not the same as depression. This is completely chemical. I’ll take manic any day of the week over depressed. At least you can get things done.

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During this time, I realized that I could pull myself together for a few hours or even an entire weekend if I had to do a show, shoot or work a Comic Con and no one knew. It was the ever-present work ethic…no matter how bad it gets, I simply will not cancel. Sometimes I’d lie in bed until it was time to go and cry, then I’d pull my shoes on, swipe on lip gloss, caffeinate until smiling, and get on with it. I’d usually feel better once I was out anyway. The energy from fans and artists picked me up. There was plenty of time to fall apart when I got home on Monday.

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This part of the journey has been an eye opener too. I’ve never been one to be depressed much, let alone a year and a half, so that was really hard. Most of my closer friends don’t bother with me any longer. I was always up front about having this, but when my disorder became a reality or I got emotional, they were there for me less and less and that’s when I needed them the most. It was a truly heartbreaking learning experience. I’d like to say if I were in their shoes, I’d have done the same thing…but I wouldn’t have. Loyalty means a lot to me.

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“Our true friends are those who are with us when the good things happen. They cheer us on and are pleased by our triumphs. False friends only appear at difficult times, with their sad, supportive faces, when, in fact, our suffering is serving to console them for their miserable lives.” -Paulo Coelho

Other than having Bella and Fat Kitty as my main companions (they’re not too good at Jeopardy), random things going wrong in the house and wandering aimlessly through life at the moment, I suppose I’m OK. Through my blog, people have come out like crazy to me about either being or living with the disorder and I have made a handful of new bp friends. Most are completely opposite of me, falling on the more depressed side. I’ll be honest; I was afraid to be around bipolar people. I didn’t want someone bringing out the worst in me. I’ve seen some drama in the locker rooms with the undiagnosed.  I can see it now, like an ex addict knows a coke head. Most recently I was on a wrestling show where a girl had a misunderstanding with a special needs fan who wanted to buy an autographed photo that escalated so loudly and so quickly that it grew violent. Tables were dumped. The fan ended up crying for a long time afterward. The promoter and she were nose to nose, promoter was a hair away from hitting her just to shut her down, and I was ready to back the boss up if needed, as she is a close friend. I did NOT want to be in that position and I did not like how I felt about it; how it changed the energy in the entire room. But this new group has not been like that at all. We check in on each other and talk about things you just can’t talk about with others…a little Crazy Crew. Those who aren’t afflicted can be empathetic and well meaning, but it’s hard to get it unless you ARE it. I find comfort in that.

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To those who have quietly emailed or approached me with your own bipolar admissions, thank you. I want you to know that you’ve helped me as much as I’ve helped you. I feel there’s something normalizing about knowing that you’re not in this alone and that what you do and feel, others do too. There are nearly 6 million with bipolar disorder in the USA. Sounds like a lot, but in the grand scheme of the population, it’s really not since in comparison, 26 million have diabetes.

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I will always be in transition. I absolutely love doing the comics and cons; being around all that creative energy is amazing. Artists, writers, fans and meeting interesting people in entertainment is a wicked cool fringe benefit. On the other hand, I’d love to move away from everything else soon. I’d like to start the next chapter of my life career-wise, but I’m not quite sure what that is yet. I’m feeling restless and would like to start transitioning sooner. Writing…nutritional healing…motivational speaking…any of these could suit me plus a host of other things. Add in lawyer, veterinarian, mediator, PR and acupuncturist.

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“A man can endure anything except for a succession of ordinary days.” -Faust

This is part of being bipolar. We have a lot of interests that suit various needs. My biggest fear: having to choose just one and choosing wrong. I’ve done it before and it’s why I have four careers now that include pro wrestler, model, writer, webmaster, sprinkled with some acting, nutritional healing and fitness competitions. I get bored. What I love doing today, I may abhor tomorrow.  My fickle mind is only like this with careers, thankfully. Maybe because being self employed, I’m immersed in what I do twenty-four hours a day at times, so burnout is easy.

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As for a personal life, there is a difference between alone and lonely. I’ve always loved my own company especially with the pets here. However, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss things sometimes, too: Companionship. Conversation. Someone to eat with. Romance.  Romance is kind of a big one.

The mantra that plays over and over in my head is “Today is as young as you’ll ever be.” Admittedly, this is not the greatest mantra when you’re a female in a looks-based business.

I’ve been getting hit on a fair bit out of nowhere lately (mostly by men who are far too young) when I’m not scaring the opposite sex. Apparently I intimidate people, which is why I’ve sat home so many weekends in my life. While I’ve generally brushed off the attention, it’s made me ponder what the future might be for me.

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If I’m truly honest, other than an open mind, no kids and a worldly education, I feel like I don’t have much to offer someone else; I still feel a bit shattered. I went through a period after being diagnosed of utter relief  - to finally know I wasn’t just a hot tempered, redheaded Italian-Scottish Philly girl – to utter despair when I realized it was a mutherfucking DISEASE with no cure, a lot more to it than just wild mood swings…and I’d be on bank-breaking meds for life.

For LIFE.

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I became obsessed with getting educated on bipolar disorder which sometimes made me even more miserable in addition to an expert on the subject. I literally became Bipolar April. My husband seemed to blame everything on that. It seemed that I wasn’t his wife any longer. He saw me as a person with a disorder and all that went wrong with us was my fault… due to me. I also became an obligation. I felt he was there because he was a good person and wouldn’t abandon me..but didn’t want to be.  It all really messed with my psyche. I must have heard the bp word thrown around the house ten times a day. Was I THAT toxic? I thought about killing myself…many times, in truth. Not because I wanted to die, but because I didn’t want to live like this. If you’re not able to sustain the most basic of relationships without being a poison, what chance do you have? Why bother? Why be alive if all you’re going to do is ruin people around you? My psychologist, who had been seeing both of us (and now just me) assured that the pendulum swung both ways. I’m not sure I totally believed her. If the bp person is causing the most damage, isn’t it ultimately their responsibility to keep the relationship healthy? As hard as I tried to push him away, he wouldn’t leave, so… 

So.

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Having been trained to never take praise or criticism personally, the entire situation threw me. That’s easy to do when it comes to your profession or people who don’t know you. They don’t matter and are often either trying to kiss your ass or bury it. When it’s someone close whom you care about, it hits harder. During this educational period, I stumbled upon two things that changed my entire outlook. The documentary “Of Two Minds”, which focuses a lot on “the bipolar gift” and a graphic novel called Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me. I saw EVERYTHING differently after these two things, which portrayed the disorder in the rare positive light while remaining realistic. The cloud lifted and I realized that there are real benefits to being bipolar at times, like being a card carrying member of Club Van Gogh.

But when it comes to dealing with others, it still makes me feel like damaged goods. I’ve told a few people what’s up and they truly scare me when they say, “Oh, its ok.” No. No it’s not. Between losing ‘tolerant’ friends who say (to others of course, I have to find out second hand) “She’s a great person with a good heart, but sometimes really hard to be around” to partners who say, “You’re not who I thought you were….you’re a completely different person than who I met,” it makes me gun shy to be around anyone. I put up walls. I want to love you, but if I care about you, I will push you away. It’s for your own sake. Trust me. Because I’ll hurt you and I won’t mean to…and you’ll hate me for it, turn from sweet to bitter and abandon me. Rinse. Repeat.

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Someone recently asked me if I change when I live with someone. It made me think. No? Yes? I don’t think I do, but I suppose that’s not true. However, when you’re manic-depressive, there are always changes and they don’t always show themselves until a certain level of comfort is achieved. It’s weird being a generally positive person with a negative disorder. I wonder if that made the swings even more significant when they happened. 

If the fact that half the people I’ve dated still talk to me and think I’m a lovely person and the other half wouldn’t piss on me if I were on fire, that’s probably a safe indication that yes, I have changed inside relationships just a tad.

I’ve never had a relationship while on meds. I don’t know how I would be now, stabilized. Probably…stable.

Speaking of the manic-depressive thing, I wonder if I’ve picked the wrong men my entire life because I was choosing people that suited my needs on one end or the other of a wide spectrum cycle. Then when I swung the other way, I realized…it wasn’t what I thought it was? It certainly makes sense. Now that I’m balanced, I wonder how different relationships would be.

I ponder these questions and find myself more and more isolated at home. Which isn’t good, I know. But I don’t know how to get out of it. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know much.

batman62I do know that I don’t want life to pass me by. I love romance, love kissing, love love. I miss all of it. While I’m in no rush, I don’t want to get old and go without it. I don’t want to be in a relationship where neither person has anything to say to the other at a restaurant. I have been there. It wasn’t fun.

I got a staggering response to my bipolar blog…and a big chunk of it was from those who have lived with bipolar people. We ain’t easy.

Let me clarify that: We are hellish and amazing. When things are on, they’re ON. We are the life of the party, more fun than you thought possible, smart, witty and charming, the best sex you’ve ever had. When they’re bad, it’s horrific. It’s a fucking impossible nightmare that can cost you sleep, your job, your credit and sanity to live with. Being bipolar isn’t a choice. It’s genetic and incurable. Despite that, we want what others have; to love and be loved. We want what everyone else wants. Should we be denied relationships?

Not only does bipolar disorder have a wide spectrum, like Autism, it varies wildly between people who are medicated, unmedicated and holistically medicated (which I don’t believe actually works for 99.9%, but can help). A person could have bp, be balanced on meds and generally fine and productive. Someone else could be a reckless gambler, serial cheater, abusive or a drug addict. (Or really special and all of the above.)

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It takes a special kind of person to stay on that emotional roller coaster that it is to be with someone who has bipolar disorder.  A saint, to be exact.

So this brings me to three questions:

-Should you break up with someone who has it?

-If you have it, when should you tell someone?

-What about children? With a solid chance of passing it on genetically, that’s a rather meditative conversation to have. I suppose there’s a possibility in the future that the chemical choices could be more exact, or even a cure. OK…probably not a cure. Not with all the cash they’re making in this country on meds that are $200-$500 a month EACH and you need 3-5 of them.

It really, really hurts to be alone when it’s not your choice. It really hurts to be abandoned. It really hurts when you’re going through something and there is no one there for you. This is when the dark thoughts usually come.

That said, I cannot judge what a person must do to save themselves or their children from a bipolar partner. All too often, pain and abuse becomes “normal” and it’s hard to walk away.  Relationships have plenty of ups and downs on their own without adding in a mental disorder. You have to do what’s best for you and yours. Bipolar doesn’t go away. It never leaves. It will be that way FOREVER. Too many of us refuse their diagnosis or medications, which puts others through living hell and is completely irresponsible and selfish. I was harsh before when I said leaving someone with bp was the wrong thing to do. Perhaps it’s not. But giving them an ultimatum to get sorted out or else might not be a bad suggestion. That’s how I ended up sorted…and now, I’m grateful.

When do you tell someone? Blurt it out right away over the quesadillas and give them a fair chance to run before the main course arrives? Wait until they get to know you and casually mention it after sex? Never? Swallowing pills surreptiously when no one is looking or claim a heart condition?

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What if you do and they’re just like the hoards of ignorant out there who think bipolar means something along the lines of radical weather changes or being moody? Do you go through all the trouble explaining cardio afflictions, early death, serotonin/melatonin chemical imbalances, sleep disorders, medications, costs and side effects…or just let them be ignorant?

What if you tell them…and they are bipolar too? Do YOU leave?

These are questions I have no answer too. Maybe you do.

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As I write this, am I doing great? Some days no. Some days I certainly am. Do I feel better? Yes. Are my meds and therapy breaking me financially? Yes. Are they worth it? Fuck yes.

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…….…..Do I have abs? Yup.

Silver linings, my friends. Silver linings.

I am bipolar, and I always will be.

 

COPYRIGHT APRIL HUNTER. NO PART OF THIS BLOG MAY BE USED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.

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Thank you for reading. Let me know your thoughts on my questions.

Get caught up on Part 1 & 2 of this story on the links below.

Read Bipolar Blues & Manic Depressive Madness (The Intro): http://aprilhunterblog.com/2013/08/28/chapter-14-bipolar-blues-and-manic-depressive-madness-the-intro/

Bipolar 2-The Dark Side:http://aprilhunterblog.com/2013/11/05/chapter-15-bipolar-2-the-dark-side/

john-green

 

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me. A Graphic Memoir. http://www.amazon.com/Marbles-Depression-Michelangelo-Graphic-Memoir/dp/1592407323

“Of Two Minds”. (Amazon & iTunes). http://www.amazon.com/Two-Minds-Terri-Cheney/dp/B00CMUXO54/ref=sr_1_1?s=instant-video&ie=UTF8&qid=1388886195&sr=1-1&keywords=of+two+minds

12 Responses to “Chapter 16: Bipolar For Life. Alone.”

  1. Dean T. Pangelinan January 30, 2014 at 5:01 am #

    I’m finding it difficult to express my gratitude for your post.

    I can honestly say that until this moment, I used to be one of those people whom you said should be “kicked in the junk, repeatedly.”

    I … I have a little better understanding of the things that I’ve observed in others.

    So, thank you. Maybe I can be a better friend than I have been.

    May the weight of your journey be lessened.

    • themuseherself January 30, 2014 at 7:17 am #

      It’s comments like yours that makes writing soul baring blogs worthwhile. Thank you. :)

  2. BigJohn February 10, 2014 at 8:32 pm #

    April…I wanted to thank you for all that you share. I hope that talking about it is at least somewhat therapeutic. As someone who has friends that struggle with this disorder, the information has been incredibly valuable is trying to understand their struggles. As you stated, unless you live through it, you can truly never understand. Your sharing has given me new insight and I am truly grateful for that.

    I wish you well in your journey and hope that you continue to have success in your treatment. You are a special person…smart, strong and driven….and no disease can change that. Keep fighting and writing and being the April that we have all come to love.

  3. Ron Rurak August 4, 2014 at 4:03 am #

    After meeting you and reading your blogs I have a tremendous amount of respect for you. Your open nature and honestly in your writing is truly inspiring! I just want to give you a hug or a high five or anything to let you know that I think you are awesome.

  4. Torben Kyhl October 30, 2014 at 8:34 am #

    Hi, April.
    I thought this might interest you.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/behold/2014/10/28/liz_obert_dualities_looks_at_the_hidden_and_visible_worlds_of_people_living.html

    Regards
    Torben

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