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Do or Do Not. Just Stop Bitching.

6 May

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“The World Is Blessed Most By Men Who Do Things and Not By Those Who Merely Talk About Them.”

This is from my Grams daily word cards and very appropriate, considering what’s going on today around us. Many people complain about the world on Facebook and every other social network. I think we can all agree that bitching doesn’t do shit.

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Talk isn’t just cheap-it’s free.

Here’s my question to you: what are YOU doing to make your country or this world a better place? For real. This is a legit question. If you were to die tomorrow, how many people would think that you made the world a better place? No one? Just your family? Can you say that you help or inspire others, give back, will leave this earth a slightly better place than before you were on it? Because complaining on Facebook and reposting sordid news doesn’t do any of that. I think it would be amazing if those who complained put some of that energy into improving things. Or making someone smile. Or, just shut the fuck up and go to the gym. Put all that anger into cardio and you’ll be svelte in three months. 

You don’t need to comment or write me back. Just think about it. I’ve hit my limit with complaining and I’m betting that you have, too. Perhaps right now is a perfect time to reevaluate and ask what it is that WE do to make things BETTER for others.

“Do or Do Not. There Is No TRY.” -Yoda

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Chapter 19: Shooting for Playboy and fantasy artists Boris Vallejo/Julie Bell

25 Apr

playboy4When you were in school, did you ever just tune the teacher out, gaze out the window and lose yourself in some dream? Like the day you pass the bar exam-how proud your parents would be to know that their money really wasn’t wasted? Maybe getting that record deal? Or making a pro sports team? Hitting the lottery for big bucks and buying Mom that house she deserves?
Right there with you. My fantasies included being an Olympic gymnast, that I was a direct descendant of Brian of Boru and Gormlaith, to be a veterinarian, travel the world, and do Playboy magazine. Well, I’d grown too tall to compete seriously as a gymnast… am still hoping to be Boru’s descendant… would later be fortunate to not only visit many countries but live in some…may possibly finish med school in a bit after I’ve gotten modeling out of my system… and had I just found out I’d gotten into Playboy.
wkend1I grew up a skinny, gawky, bookworm with tangled hair, a flat chest and thick glasses. To me, I’m still her. I don’t always see what everyone else sees. To actually have a shot at Playboy was a big deal to me. After about nine years of submitting every six months and getting rejection letters (“While you’re certainly an attractive young lady, you’re just not what we’re looking for at this time…”) my friend, Devon Michaels, was at the Playboy office in Chicago and showed them my pictures. They called and wanted to know if I could come in person. I wasn’t going to be in Chicago, but would be closer to NYC. The next day I was set up to do an audition in New York. From my own experiences and from those of my co-workers, it’s very hard to get into this magazine. I was pretty much overjoyed and shitting my pants simultaneously.
Naturally, I got this call the day after Thanksgiving. This holiday for everyone else is a fatty fat fat feast. But when you have a little Italian grandma at home in Philly, who gets super insulted if you don’t take seconds and thirds of the meal she slaved all day over a hot stove to cook you…fatty fat fat takes on a whole new meaning.
Translation: Absolutely ab-less for a Playboy shoot. I went… they took Polaroid’s and promised to call the next day. I was like, “Yeah, OK.” But, they did. I had to go back to NYC the next night for a shoot the following day.

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As I checked into the beautiful hotel that was arranged for me the night before the shoot with my hair up, no makeup on, in baggy sweats, the front desk girl loudly announced that Playboy would be covering all expenses and incidentals. 789 business men turned around to stare…in disappointment.
I was ecstatic. I can’t sleep when something’s coming up. I’m like a little kid at Christmas, and this was a fantasy dream come true. I surrendered to the night and opened my 14th story window overlooking Manhattan, twinkling full of Christmas lights for about an hour. I love this city. I’ve spent so much time here lately, I feel like an honorary New Yorker. Almost as rude at times, too… I love the rudeness, but I prefer the term directness. Saves time.
I had to be up at 7 a.m. without ever falling asleep, which worked in my favor because the hotel forgot my wakeup call. Around 6:30am, I just gave up and got in the shower. Did I ever feel like complete shit. With all the traveling, I was now on day 3 of no sleep.

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OK. So, the makeup artist Jay arrives – and he had his work cut out for him. I’m going to call him Really Gay Jay…because he was Jay and really gay. He primped and pampered and blended away. I’m usually wary of makeup people. I started doing my own makeup for photo shoots pretty often after dealing with a slew of bad ones. One woman actually made MY lips look thin. My lips. I have big Latin lips (and ass). It’s damn near impossible to make them look thin, but that girl managed. Jay had lots of great stories about super models and celebs he’d done for Playboy… and some great makeup tips that I stole. Loved the way he cooed in his Southern lilt: “Ooh, just look at all that hair! Fab-u-lous! And that color! Who DOES your color?” All the while he just kept brushing my hair and telling me gossip.

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This was already fun. I decided I was a big Really Gay Jay fan. We grabbed a cab and headed to the studio. It was set up like a gym. There were lots of people around and half were Japanese. It felt a bit odd because I wasn’t used to this many people around on shoots. Most of the time, it’s just the photographer and me out in a desert somewhere.

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Playboy had:
– the makeup guy,
-the art director,
-the photographer,
-the guy who owned the property,
-his wife,
-their maid,
-and the girl who did castings.
There was even a Nivea lotion guy. Hate to ruin the myth, but Playboy isn’t as airbrushed as you might think. It’s a lot of Nivea. This is a shiny lotion that bounces the light back to the camera and makes your skin appear smooth and flawless on film. I think they’re still hiring for this job, so hurry now boys.

-Oh yeah, there was also the lighting guy.
A hair light. A face light. A boob light. A thigh light. And a butt light. All of this was very, VERY important.
Playboy puts a lot of effort into their shoots…via a lot of people.

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What do you think a butt lighting guy gets paid? Imagine that conversation at the bar after work with his friends…they probably think his life is awesome. Meanwhile, he’s truly a stifled artist dying a slow death under butt lighting and developing a deep resentment for Playboy models. He begins dating chubby girls out of defiance…and keeps the lights off. Just my guess.
Then we went to it. Gen Nishino, (who reminded me of a younger version of Mr. Miyagi) clicked away while I hung naked from the equipment in a way that I’m sure it had never been used before. For my main shoot, I wore a Crunch Fitness bright yellow sports bra that was too small so my breasts were mostly falling out of it while doing back and shoulders. The next set was a naked treadmill session for a special edition of Hardbodies, because we models ALWAYS do our cardio in the nude while bending over the handlebars naked to stretch. And finally a Playboy Lingerie shoot in tight black lace and red strappy high heels by the stairs. Gen shoots in a ‘voyeur’ style that took getting used to and also made the almost unforgivable comment, “Wow-you’re massive!” I suppose I am next to the bitty things he usually shoots. Plus the fact that he’s Japanese. Probably not the best comment to make to a model while you’re trying to get the best out of her.
It was forgivable, because this shoot would later lead to a ton of other opportunities, including an open door straight into the wrestling business.
After the shoot, Really Gay Jay looked out for me very protectively; made sure the cab driver didn’t rip me off and told me the easiest way to get home. Incidentally, the parking garage at the hotel “lost” my car for about an hour, and no one spoke English. I was so tired and sore (long contorting shoot) and didn’t have the energy to freak out on them….which is universally understood, I believe.

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I got back to Philadelphia and fell into bed just to get up in the morning and head north again to shoot with fantasy artists Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell.
This was supposed to be my week off between nonstop national burlesque tours , but there’s no way I’d miss these opportunities. I’ve always wanted to work with Boris and Julie. I’ve loved their work since an old boyfriend turned me onto a calendar when I was about 19. I can’t believe both these calls came the same week.
Boris is from Peru and we chatted about the popular book, The Celestine Prophecy. He told me it was completely made up, because the Inca’s had no written language, and therefore couldn’t write the prophecies. Bummer. Guess there’s no Santa Claus either?

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I shot with Julie first. This woman was just incredible looking. She looked 10 years younger than she really was, and has one of the best fitness bodies I’d ever seen – and 2 kids. Not to mention, she’s really beautiful. She attributed it to twice-daily workouts with Boris, organic foods and veganism. I couldn’t believe she could have that much muscle mass as a vegan.large
She had me get undressed completely, stand on a pedestal and pose with lots of barbaric-looking cool weapons. I was a lone female, wearing nothing but buckskin and a shield, battling off Norse invaders to my village with their own battle axes to protect my King, who had been critically injured while fighting a fierce dragon. He’d saved me, a sacrificial, ginger virgin left on an alter, from the beast… I had a little movie running in my head the whole time, and was having fun losing myself.
Boris shot me next, and was quick. He knew exactly what he wanted.
I especially enjoy my job when I get to do fitness-related shoots and play with weapons. I was told for so long to “soften up and stop scaring people”, that it’s nice that my fit look is not only accepted but sought after now. Plus, it beats a desk job, right? Two major dreams fulfilled in one week. If I wasn’t so tired, I’d be dancing around the living room. But after all the fantasy shooting that week, I think it was perfectly acceptable to fantasize about dancing around my living room instead.

 

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

With or Without You…

22 Apr

(Written spring of 2013)

It’s such a cliché. When did we become a cliché?

We never did conform to anyone else’s rules.

We always colored outside of the line…but now we’re THAT.

I told you…I never wanted to be that couple sitting across from each other at the restaurant,

Not talking. Not looking at each other.

We became THAT.

 

Loyal. Kind. Negative. Criticizing. Witty. Smart. Nitpick. Divide…and Conquer.

My mind races and I can’t sleep.

I never could. Thoughts come faster than I can get them down.

Being this way…It’s a curse. It’s a blessing.

I know.

I know people don’t get me. They can’t. 

I know I may die young.

I know I’m smarter than most.

I know I do dumb things.

I know my father was this way, too.

I got this from him.

He said, “I will never be happy.”

Well…I have trained, read and learned.

It’s simple. You decide how you will see things.

I know I can be happy.

I don’t think you can.

When you are already past the age of where you could be dead, every day is a gift.

What should I do?

I don’t want to live like this. But I can’t imagine life without you in it.

We are two good people who bring out the worst in each other.

You look at me, but you don’t see me. You see an illness. That’s all I am to you now.

 

I don’t want that.

The constant reminders…

I don’t want to be looked at like that.

 

A dog loses his leg and learns to walk again.

Right away.

No one is in his ear, all day and night, telling him what’s wrong…how he’s a poor thing…there’s something wrong with him.

He just gets up and walks. 

Before this, I was just me. I’m still me.

And I’ll be fine.

Without you…I think maybe I can walk again.

 

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Chapter 18: What’s A Nice Girl Like You Doing on a Site Like That?

10 Apr

In The Beginning…

There is a reason and a story for EVERYTHING. Where did that antique chair come from? How did you get your cat? Where did your grandparents meet? When did you realize you were bisexual? I love stories.

Well, this one is about an adult web site. I didn’t create it because I’m a typical lazy, pretty girl who doesn’t want to work. It wasn’t because I was in debt. I’m not the classic single mom. It wasn’t to put myself through school; although I did exercise THAT cliché on my second go-round with college, working doubles and triples, all day and night at the strip club on Fridays and Saturdays, then doubling up on courses on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I had to drop my German class Tuesday morning. It just started way too early. Organic Chemistry, Abnormal Psych, Macroeconomics…yeah, as much as I’d have loved to see Das Boot without subtitles for once, German had to go. Auf Weidersehen.

I did not end up in the intended veterinarian school. However, I kick ass in Jeopardy.

With all that stated, I created an adult website to get off the road.

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I was traveling full time as a burlesque feature dancer and had been for seven years, while towing a camper to sleep in, eventually living full time in an RV tour bus. It was a fun time that was rarely boring, but I’d had enough. It wasn’t uncommon to drive 20 miles out of the way in the middle of nowhere, only to pull into an RV park at three a.m. that hadn’t been listed as closed for the season. Back-to-back weeks in Oregon, North Dakota, Nebraska, and then Christmas week in West Virginia without seeing anything other than the venues and local gyms. I missed birthdays, holidays, weddings…even a funeral. My agent didn’t allow me to say no, and I was a pretty decent act, so the offers kept coming. It was why I had to literally live out of a bus.

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(Yes…Pantera – and others you’d probably know – used to come to my shows.) 

Wanting to slow down, I declared my retirement while I was still hot but kept a few bookings from the better clubs where I’d done well and who had been good to me. (Unlike in pro wrestling, my retirement was for real.) I was performing in Staten Island and the club manager was a friend. The stage was set back from the patrons, so there was no possibility of any misbehaving. It was a packed venue and I usually made a lot of money. I always got a ton of press in that area. Photographers would come in from all over to shoot me, cover the week of my shows for the local papers or magazines, or I’d simply do Howard Stern ahead of time. However, I remember this most of all: asking for a double shot of vodka at the bar… and then another…

That’s what it took to get on stage. When I should have felt accomplished, I felt anxious. Coming from a long line of alcoholics, I’d always avoided liquor. That was not me…and that was when I knew I had to get the fuck out.

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Featured burlesque paid very well but the expenses were horrific. We were paid several hundred dollars per show and were booked for 12 to 24 shows a week. In addition, tips and sales after each show usually matched or exceeded our pay rate. A travel allotment was also provided. You can do the math: to be willing to give up that kind of a paycheck – it had to be a difficult life. I made significantly less on my website, but I also wasn’t fueling an RV, tipping everyone out in the club, spending $1200-1600 on Swarovski crystal themed costumes and having props made, like a huge see-through champagne glass shaped bathtub for my Little Mermaid show, buying posters in bulk to give away, and paying $20 a day to go to a gym on the road. Eating out just added to the costs.

If you’ve read my tour diaries on my website, then you already know some of the crazy things that used to happen on the road. I traveled with two dogs; an adopted pitbull mix and an American Bulldog. They were mostly for companionship but having them for safety was an added bonus. On three different occasions, they attacked someone trying to push their way into my hotel room or the RV. One was a drunken lady in shitty Flint, MI who just couldn’t figure out that my room wasn’t hers even though there was NO other room in that area.

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The economy had bottomed out in Flint long before everywhere else and the girls at that club were hooking for $5, so I’m guessing that’s what my room had been used for when I wasn’t in it. (I can’t call Flint just “Flint”. It’s always been “Shitty Flint”.) Another was a drunken soldier on a Georgia military base who’d followed me. Unfortunately, the club and my hotel shared a parking lot and I had to walk back and forth. He tried to break my door down after a show. I was actually on the road alone for that particular incident and it was the deciding factor to get a camper and permanently bring the dogs along with me.

A third was a weird middle-aged stalker in northern Indiana. He had parked outside my room and keep walking back and forth, not realizing I had dogs inside. Both animals could tell how freaked out I was and were pacing. I was contractually booked for another show within the hour and had to leave. When he got to the door, I tried to pull both back (which was about 170 lbs of dog total) but my larger male lunged and nipped him in the thigh. There was no blood, but his pants ripped. It became a fiasco and he had my dog taken from me by animal control. Thank God the owner of the nightclub was in tight with the local politicians. I got Chance back late that night between shows, but not before crying a lot of tears and one hysterical panic attack. They’d talked about putting him down. There I was, having to smile, get on stage and do shows like nothing was wrong. When you’re on the road, you don’t always have a lot of friends. For me, my dogs meant everything.

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(Photographer Paul B. Goode caught this photo backstage right before my show and then the second shot during my show. The first picture is very telling.)

This “smile, get on stage and perform like nothing is wrong” is something that happened a lot: Through fights with my mom, a divorce, my husband emptying out our bank account (which was pretty much all mine), car accidents, missing my brother’s wedding and my nephew being born, being deathly sick with bronchitis, and my father dying in a plane crash. (Yes, I did go to his memorial. Both of them. He lived in California but was from Philadelphia. But I had to work in between.) When you sign a contract and have accepted the deposit, the show must go on. This path is like a football career; you can only do it for so long, so you must work hard, be in demand, put as much away as you can, try not to get injured or addicted, and then get out. It’s difficult to build solid relationships when it appears that your main priority is always work.

I never felt safe. I never felt like I could sleep. It was rare that I didn’t feel like a target. This, of course, made me feel easily shattered. There are many, many other crazy road stories I could share but I’d run out of room here. It was time to hang up the sequined g-string and do something a little less crazy. I’ve often been asked why I never did porn. Simply put, it was not for me. There is a massive difference between being a nude fantasy and exchanging bodily fluids via insertion with another human being. Some are not able to grasp this, but I do. Through my website, people get to see enough. I share what’s under my clothes and now, what’s in my head. Only my chosen partner should know what sex is like with me. I have absolutely nothing against those who are in porn industry, which is a legitimate business with many nice people. Agents and fans have always attempted to push me into this direction; that answer has and always will be no.

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I had a very smart and business savy porn star friend, Lisa Lipps, whose heart was actually bigger than her massive breasts. She opened up her home and office to me in Las Vegas, and that’s where I crashed for a little while to get on my feet. She taught me how to run a website. Her, Asia Carrera, Minka…I learned from the best. They are all smart businesswomen and should be respected as such.

My website was never intended as your classic adult site. It’s always been a fan club. Of course I have all my photos and videos on there. However, from Day 1, it’s been an extreme variety of entertainment: it’s had all the behind the scenes on wrestling tours, photo shoots, daily life and conventions, my wrestling matches, fitness and diet tips, all my writing, dirty jokes. I’ve tried to keep it different and fun. It’s been a source of stability, and I truly appreciate when fans become members.

Aside from fetish shoots and larger name magazines, for most of our photo shoots, centerfold modeling doesn’t pay much (if at all!). Generally it’s a trade; time for promo. Meaning, I’ll give you my time (and name as a reference) and you’ll give me the promo photos you’ve shot to use as I please. The only way to earn is to have a site or do some kind of sales with what we get from the shoots. It’s also been a source of creativity as well. Whatever it says about me, I enjoy dressing up and writing my tour travails down; sprucing them up with all the snapshots backstage and video clips. I like CREATING something out of nothing. It’s gratifying. I also know that as much as I’ve enjoyed this, it’s got a shelf life and this is a source of great angst for me. Working for myself, having had the freedom to fly home to visit and take care of my sick mom every other week…

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Speaking of freedom, that means a lot to me. Freedom is exactly why I started AprilHunter.com. Freedom is why I still have it. Freedom has always meant more to me than anything. Some of you know I have bipolar disorder. Many people with this disease are disabled and can’t work at all. I believe being self employed has helped me greatly in this department, even though the self employed get no benefits, sick days or retirement. Having my site has allowed me the freedom to work around how good or bad I feel. Some days I will work until 4 a.m. while other days, not at all. Retouching photos, writing Behind-the-Scenes diaries, updates, editing videos, sending out newsletters, emails, social networking, promoting…I do all of this. I’m not complaining, but it does take up a tremendous amount of time and energy. There’s not a lot left over to deal with for bookings, travel, shoots, writing and thinking of what’s next in life. Oh, right…I have to get to the gym most days, too.

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While this career path can be easy at times, it’s a very difficult lifestyle – and we who are in it, PAY for it every day. TRUST ME. I dress really comfortably in my downtime. I mean, really comfortably. Because the last thing I want to wear is an underwire bra, itchy lace, fishnets or any type of lingerie. I wear that stuff for shoots and wrestling…at home or for my partner, no dice. It’s cotton, all the way. Now stop and think about how messed up that is. I’ll dress sexy to earn a paycheck. But if he wants to see sexy, it feels like work to me. What am I supposed to say? Go to my site?

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I’ve had female friends not feel comfortable with me around their husbands…and lost very good long-time male friends when they wife-up with someone new who has perceived me to be the way my photos depict. Honestly, this kills me. I’m a tomboy and love my guy friends. Losing them has sucked. Truth be told, I can halfway understand this. I’m a very good actress in my photos. I have playing a fantasy down to an art. In real life, as just plain April with no makeup and my hair wrapped up with a clip and my boxer shorts on…that’s me. But on film…I’m the convincing sex goddess who would have you believe I’m the ultimate woman into everything…hence, it brings the insecurities out in women. We ladies aren’t always the most secure creatures anyway and I give my solid female friends who have looked past this to the real me huge props. I love you.

However, it’s been a double edged sword. I’ve hit a point in my life where relationships have become a priority to me and having this site has been an issue. Unless someone is open-minded or a business oriented thinker, they can’t really get past judgments upon it. There’s a lot more to me than just big tits. If you’re on this blog, you already know that. I’m sure that limiting myself to nothing more than a topless or nude model has done a lot of harm in the way of career possibilities. Nothing irritates me like the question, “What do you do?” I don’t really know how to answer it. But I know this: What you do isn’t always who you are.

IMG_8399smallI’ll post photos with friends from the beach and, inevitably, some random fan will make a comment like this: “You have sexy feet.” I have nothing against foot fans, but time and place. It just gets creep-tastic at certain times and it’s gotten old. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to shield my mom or family from fan comments. Yes, they all know what I do. I’m honest. You can’t hide with the Internet anyway. I just prefer not to rub it in their faces.

“I’d love to date you.” Really? No. You think you’d be dating April Hunter. Truth is, you wouldn’t. If you want to date April Hunter, go join my site. That’s where she exists…and that’s the ONLY place she exists. I love some of my fans dearly and I’m super grateful to those who are there for me. While I’ve always tried to give the fans everything I could, including access to me through email and social networking (in addition to seeing me naked every which way), I could never figure out why some fans’ demands were so high that if they didn’t get their way, they went from loving to destroying me. Having my YouTube videos pulled down, my Facebook reported as fake, my PayPal suspended, and so on. I’ve had spiteful people send or show nude photos to my trainer, my brother, and even my grandfather.

It’s also heartbreaking that fans steal from model’s sites so much. This is a never-ending battle for me and it kills memberships. I don’t understand why a so-called fan would deliberately put their favorite models out of business and take food off their tables, but that’s exactly what they are doing by stealing, trading passwords and reposting content. It ruins us. We are the epitome of small business in America and stealing from us truly hurts in ways you wouldn’t believe. 

I’ve shot a lot of content and it’s enough to keep updating AprilHunter.com for quite a while after I’m done with this. I also keep adding a lot of In The Dressing Room stuff and Behind-The-Scenes Diaries that are current.

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Truth is, I haven’t shot anything nude in ages. I quit years ago. However, people think I still do it because they see updates that still have nudes included. I just hit a point where it was “been there, done that” and felt time to move on…so I’ve been working towards life after the site, all while maintaining it. I’m deeply thankful for it and my fans…it’s really turned into a multifaceted website that’s way more than just simple centerfold photos and videos. I’ve outgrown being one dimensional. It’s worked for a long time and I’m grateful. Now I wonder if I wouldn’t be much further ahead in life had I not chosen this path. However, I don’t want to live in the past, analyzing past decisions, and I’m committed to moving forward. It is what it is, and it was what it was.

My website and my life experiences have made me who I am today.

…It won’t be around forever boys, so enjoy it while you can. And don’t steal. 😉

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

Chapter 17: The Restless Muse

7 Mar

DSC_1846 PD-X3xThere is a gnawing, unsatisfied feeling within.

It comes back to visit her often, and its voice can be heard whispering, “Is this all there is to life?”

Restlessness.

Very little makes her feel complete. Even then, it’s only temporary.

It’s said that the meaning of life is to discover your gift…

Then, in turn, give it away to others.

Frustrated, because she has yet to discover her yearning. 0M6A5623x

Fulfillment escapes her as she travels in circles over and over, and over again.

She is tired and uninspired.

Each time, her battery, running lower and lower, as she expends more and more energy without a way of recharging; doing what she no longer cares to do, but must in order to survive and nourish herself.

Grateful for opportunities, she fears many of them she has outgrown.

Even the little things have become tedious.

No longer challenging.

Conquered.

Bored.

Routine.

A paycheck.

Nothing more.

Putting the clothes on, taking the gloves off?

It’s time.

Doing what you do not like robs ten times more the energy.

Yet, she keeps on. It’s what she knows. It’s food on the table.

It leaves nothing left over to figure out the next move in the journey of life.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Maybe the definition of insanity should simply be doing the same thing over and over.

Phone rings. Repeat offer. She says yes.

Why?

She does things in life she doesn’t want to do because they’re familiar. Because they’re easy.  Because they provide. Because she is afraid to do more.

The hatred comes for time lost doing things she doesn’t want to do. Hating herself for doing them.

Time off to think, and starve? Work, and die inside?

The restlessness grows as she stands still, stunted.

Four way stop, nothing is moving, trapped in gridlock.

MOVE, GODDAMMIT.

The minutes tick by, turning into days…weeks…months…

Time melting, like a Salvatore Dali clock.
Every day, slipping away.
She stays the same.

Gothic_Butterfly_largeEver frustrating, She is  a muse for others. 

A goddamn muse.

She inspires creativity all around her.

Music. Art. Writing. Self improvement. Business.

Because of her, they go after their dreams and goals.

Bragging?

Proud. She loves helping others and lifting them up.

It makes her happy when they succeed, lose weight, write, inspire others, create something beautiful, feel accomplished and grow.

She inspires ideas and success in others. And yet, she cannot do this for herself.

She is jealous…of her.

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A butterfly makes people pause in wonder.

To admire her beauty. To wish for freedom and flight. To ponder the possibilities.

We realize what is a grounded fuzzy caterpillar today could be colorfully flitting around in the air tomorrow. You cannot chase a butterfly. You can only stand still and hope that it chooses you. 

Where is HER butterfly?

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She sits there, knowing what she should do. Knowing what has to be done. Doing none of it. She turns away from the truth and hides. But she has never been very good at lying to herself.

She doesn’t want this anymore.

It’s not fun anymore.

She wants more.

There has to be more.

Ready to move forward, afraid to let go…desperate for the energy and drive to navigate her life up over the sidewalk, across the empty playground, and down that side street to get away from the frozen solid traffic jam.

Which do you use to make decisions? Love…or fear?

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It’s not whether or not you have problems. It’s whether or not you have the same problems as last year.

She has the same problems as last year.

She must grow.

She longs for the creativity that she KNOWS is ready to spill out and flow, if just unlocked.

She can feel it as surely as the sunshine upon her face while she stands still and scans the world for those colorful wings flitting about.

Mariposa. Schmetterling. Vlinder. Papillion.

 

I know you must be out there… somewhere.

 

-April Hunter

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“Success does to the living what sunshine does to stained glass.”

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 sympathetic 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): https://aprilhunterblog.com/2013/08/28/chapter-14-bipolar-blues-and-manic-depressive-madness-the-intro/

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

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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

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Will You Help Me Fix Cosmo the Corgi?

5 Jan

Will you help me fix Cosmo the Corgi’s knees? Or please spread the word? 

IndieGoGo: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/634406/wdgi/3773727

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The day after Christmas, I took the dogs to the dog park. They’d been cooped up on the holiday and I know they wanted to get out and run. No sooner had I gotten inside the gate and was still removing Bella’s leash when I saw Cosmo -who had bolted straight down the fence with a pack of Greyhounds on the other side – sit down suddenly, look stunned and he couldn’t get back up. 

Cosmo’s always been prone to issues. He was a puppy mill rescue and with that came a lot of vet bills. A LOT. Within 48 hours of having him he had developed pneumonia and giardia and had to be hospitalized in an oxygen tent.  He almost died, twice. After a little over a week, he was finally allowed to come home (with the $3000 bill), but it was a while to get him recovered and he’s always been susceptible to anything that comes along, especially kennel cough. 

Here’s the thing, though:  my pets are my family. I know that sounds weird to some and it’s not how my family raised me – dogs generally stayed outside and never saw the vet, and cats could be given away like they were only a plate of cookies – but it’s how I am now. I have a genetic disorder that will require medication for the rest of my life and have chosen not to have children as not to pass it on, so my dogs (and cat) are my children. They are also service dogs.  I understand being “defective”, so giving up on Cosmo was never an option.  

He is a living teddy bear and very happy to be hugging and kissing you for the better part of the day. 

………..And night.

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So, when this suddenly happened, I had a bad feeling. I thought maybe he’d walk it off, but no. I packed the dogs up, dropped Bella at home and went right to the emergency vet hospital.  Not my vet, but the one that’s is open 24 hours. With certain things, I go there instead because I know when it comes to accidents with him, I might be back in sooner than later.  He was in a lot of pain and couldn’t move. They thought it was his back after x-raying him. $376, a pain injection and some meds later, I took him home, worried as hell he would be paralyzed. That evening he didn’t pee. That night, nothing. He couldn’t move and he couldn’t hold himself up to go, so he wouldn’t. He’s not the type to mess in the house. I slept with a light on and just got up every hour to check on him. A few times in the middle of the night, I took him out. Nada. 

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By 4:30 am, I called them and said that he hadn’t wee’d in nearly a full day, but was drinking a lot of water. “Bring him back in. It sounds like he’s regressed.” Shit.

(That’s why I chose the 24 hour emergency vet hospital. Experience. Unfortunately.)

I packed him back up and drove over. They did more x-rays and told me the surgeon was due in at 8 am, why don’t I just leave him to be looked at.  I asked if they could do something to relieve his bladder.  He was catheterized and apparently he REALLY had to wee.

I went back in around 11 am and the surgeon told me it was his ACL in BOTH knees.. This was good, since it meant his paralysis would not be permanent. Then he said it would be about $1500 per knee to fix. Not so good. “Doc, I could get my OWN knees fixed for less than that.”  Plus a stifle brace, meds and rehab…and a 4-6 month recovery time.

That bill was another $301. And Cosmo still didn’t pee until 24 hours later. I thought I was going to have to take him in again!

My aunt, who is a vet from the University of Pennsylvania, backed the surgeon up.  We’d been thinking about a holistic approach, and she likes that option for many dogs, but not this case. Because he is only 7 years old and has a long life to life…because of the Corgi breed being a chest heavy one with short legs, and because he is not a 15 lb dog, she advised against skipping the surgery.  She warned that if we did, it might set him up for a tough life later as he ages with a lot of pain, arthritis and loss of use of the leg, anyway. 

Surgery, it is. Friday January 10th.

The surgery uses nylon, and the reason it’s such a long recovery is that unlike with a human’s torn ACL, where they use a cadaver ligament to repair it, they don’t repair dogs. They drill right under and allow another ligament to take over–which takes time. 

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A few others who have had this issue and some indy film people suggested I do something on IndieGoGo and see if I can raise a few dollars that way to offset some costs.  

Personally, I didn’t like the idea. I’ve been broke as hell before and never went on any government assistance or asked for any loans. I’ve always found a way or been exceedingly lucky. But in this particular case with Cosmo in so much pain and the costs so high…I think crowdfunding is the option here. 

This is the link if you’d like to see more of the story: IndieGoGo-

 http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/634406/wdgi/3773727

If you can help, I am extremely grateful. I know that sometimes what the heart wants the wallet simply cannot do, so if you can please share my story or link, that’s appreciated too. 

Thank you.  Xo

-April…and Cosmo

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Breathing Isn’t LIVING.

24 Dec

I wanted to take this blog to say a very heartfelt THANK YOU. I feel very fortunate to have such amazing fans and friends. My gratitude is more than you’ll realize. So many of you have gone above and beyond what a fan or friend typically is, it has floored me at times.

Just…thank you.

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In winter, an abundance of potential lies beneath the ground. You can’t see it, but you know it’s there. If you were to unearth the seeds and bulbs that have been planted, you would sabotage the emergence of grass, flowers and food in spring. So, you wait and allow them to be nourished by an unseen source.

This is not any different than YOU, as a person. At this time of year, we do too much. We wear ourselves down and forget to stop, breathe and enjoy.

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We also reflect back on the year before…often with dissatisfaction.

Don’t. Guilt is a wasted emotion.

You’re like the ground, always. You have within you untapped potential.  With commitment and work, amazing things can emerge whenever you want them to.

Regardless of age, you can always grow, understand and live life more fully.  The day you stop learning something new every day is the day you die. Just because you are breathing does not mean you are alive. Every single minute means a fresh start can be right NOW.

No matter how shit your day is going, never forget that there are several dozen people somewhere in the world who would trade everything to have your life.

Live in the moment. Be happy in what is around you.  “There are flowers everywhere if one chooses to see them. – Henri Matisse”

Merry Christmas, Lovely Kwanzaa & Happy Solstice!

Paul Walker vs. Anger : The Flip Side

3 Dec

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“I’m so fed up with hearing about the death of an actor no one knew! There are children and soldiers who die every day and no one says anything about it!”

I saw this post on Facebook and it made me think.

I’d agree.

On the flip side, I think it’s a ‘connection’ situation that some aren’t able to fathom. Actors come into people’s living rooms. We occasionally connect with their characters and relate. In this country, we don’t have a Prince or a Queen. Hollywood is our royalty.

Psychologically, this is why people are upset. They feel they know Paul Walker (naturally, we get more upset when prettier people die) and he is on display for us; to a degree, we have access to him and his life.  The USA won’t even so much as release names or faces of the many dead soldiers who have come home each day. Stories on children’s hospitals are few, far between, heartbreaking and gloomy.

Walker represented glamour and an American dream…not death and depression. As a country, we are in an emotional melancholia. Anti-depressant use is up 400% from last year. When this happens, fantasy TV shows like True Blood, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones do very well in ratings because people want escapism.

So, when someone dies whom fans have admired for doing things they’ve always wanted, but never had the balls to (because most people don’t follow their dreams) it affects them on a personal level.

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Is it messed up that people are mourning an actor they don’t know more than a soldier who is being held hostage? Yes. But it’s completely understandable if you think about it.

We don’t comprehend how others see things or feel at times – even if it’s not right. We don’t try to put ourselves in their shoes. We lash out instead of being intelligent and using the “WHY” question we were originally taught as children, but forgot somewhere along the way when many of us became sheeple herded along by TV and corporate owned mass media. “I wonder WHY she feels that way or WHY he did that?”

Shit could be so much more positive and calm if we could just learn to understand all sides. That’s what tolerance really is. Not being nice to people who are different because you have to. It’s empathy. I doubt my little blog is going to cause world peace or anything, but perhaps it can help one or two of you grasp things a little better. That’s my hope, as I sit here late at night, typing away. (However, I’m a hopeless idealist.)

Ask WHY. Question everything.

…And have a kick ass week.  Life is short.

Chapter 14: Bipolar Blues and Manic-Depressive Madness. The Intro.

28 Aug

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Bipolar 1: THE MANIC INTRO

“If you’re going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you’re going to be locked up.” -Hunter S. Thompson

Bipolar Blues & Manic-Depressive Madness.

Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t want to see me angry.

I reached for the glass of water and swallowed the pill. I try to remember to take it the same time every day, but I’m not always successful. I take pills in the morning. I take a pill in the afternoon. And I take pills in the evening. I have the option of taking an additional pill at bed time to shut my brain off, but it’s highly addictive, so it scares me. The lithium has ruined my thyroid, so I take another pill for that. If I’m not careful, it can also can ruin my liver, brain and kidneys. That’s just ONE of the harmful drugs I’m on. You might wonder why I’d take something that could kill me? It’s because that without it, I will destroy everyone around me.

I am so fucking fucked, it’s fucked up.

There. That’s about my entire story in a nutshell. I am broken. Completely broken, And like shattered shards of glass, anyone who comes near me walks away bleeding. So, I have become more and more of a recluse, afraid to have friends or relationships, because I know I’ll just end up destroying the people I care about, which kills me inside and makes me—once again—want to kill myself.

It’s a fantastic pattern, isn’t it?

And that’s what being bipolar is.

What’s so frustrating is that I’m a good and decent person. Mostly. And hurting others is NOT what I want to do, but it IS what I do. My heart breaks all the time for what I’ve done. Living with myself is a form of torture some days. I’m tugged back and forth between wanting to love people and wanting to protect them from me.

I’m a humanist. I believe in equality for all and treating people like you want to be treated. When I turn into the Hulk and can’t abide by this – then I have to live with the results of the disaster I’ve caused that I can barely remember…but the damage is all around me – it makes me want to curl up and die. Hurting others whom I love and having no control over it makes me want to kill myself because that’s the only way I can make it stop.

The truth is something I’ve had a hard time putting down on paper. The reason is because when I’ve gone back and read what I’ve written, I think I sound like an asshole. I tend to glamorize my stories if they’re for the public unless I’m writing under a different name or anonymously.  I’ve realized I sound like a jerk for thinking some of the thoughts I’ve had.  If I were on a reality show with some of the things I’ve done, I’d have been voted off first. But regardless of how I may come across, I promise to tell only the truth on this page. Clearly, from my chosen career path, I’ve never been much to give a shit what people think. If I didn’t have a thick skin, I’d have crumpled up and cried myself out of the business ages ago. As I’m getting older, I care even less.

I know there are more out there just like me.  What I DO care about: helping others. So here I am, naked once again. Except this time, I’m really stripped down to nothing.

“My pain is self chosen. At least I believe it to be. I could either drown. Or pull off my skin and swim to shore. Now I can grow a beautiful shell for all to see. The River of Deceit pulls down…” –Mad Season

I think that anyone who is bipolar has considered suicide at some point.  Living with this illness can be just too much to bear at times.  Bipolar disorder has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Some studies have determined that as high as 50% of people with bipolar attempt suicide, and 25% are successful.  I don’t think even most types of cancer carry that much risk.

It’s a good indication of just how difficult this disease can be.

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A common misconception is that you can “become” bipolar, or something can turn you that way. No. You can’t. It’s strictly genetic. You either were born with it, or you aren’t. End of story.

My friends are pretty clueless as to what bipolar disorder is or how bad it can be. Sure, people know the term. But they have no idea what it IS. I’m going to tell you…no matter how fucking embarrassing this is. Because people should know, instead of saying, “This weather is so bipolar!” without having a clue as to what it actually means.

If I meet someone who is familiar with it, they usually tell me someone they knew had it while rolling their eyes and saying, “They broke up. He was bipolar.”

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It’s staggering to me that people have to wonder why we kill ourselves. They know nothing about the disorder, have no clue how to respond to episodes, don’t bother to educate themselves, just dump people on the side of the road who have it and then tell all their friends why it’s not their fault. Well, if you don’t know how to deal with it then maybe it IS partly your fault.

Would we tolerate this with Autism, which is also a highly difficult disorder? Or is there a push for education and awareness? People who have bipolar disorder severely enough can qualify for disability because it can be impossible to hold a job, so it’s something the world should know more about.

That said, I will fully admit that those who love us and stick by us are saints.  We are not easy to live with and it takes a certain type of person or an awareness and knowledge how to deal with it and how not to take things personally. To those who hang in there, I applaud you because there are so few of you. The majority of the world walks away and washes their hands clean. You pretty much have to go into “silent mode” when an episode (that’s the official term for it) happens and just refuse to take it personally no matter what horrible things are said or what expletives are screamed at you. It’s not you. It never is.

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Like Autism has its wide spectrum, so does bipolar disorder in a sense. Manic episodes can range, as can the severity and types of bipolar disorder. I am Bipolar 1, which is extremely manic with crazy episodes. I have a more severe rapid cycling version of bipolar disorder. Insane stuff that makes Silver Linings Playbook look exceedingly tame. When left untreated, these episodes happen more frequently and can scar the brain and cause tissue loss. I was up to several a day at one point. Mine are deranged, yet no one sees them except the people who are absolutely the closest to me. Even semi-close friends can’t see me being bipolar. Many don’t even believe it when I tell them, because outwardly, I can be so friendly, outgoing and sweet. That’s my other side. And it IS genuine. When the very few people in my life don’t give up on me, it’s always the same reason when I ask why they don’t piss off for their own self-preservation: “Because you have a good heart. You’re a really sweet person most of the time.”

Most of the time.

This is part of the reason I’ve always had pets who are much more than just an animal to me. They’re Therapy Service Animals. Without them, I’d be lost. They are there licking the tears and ready to curl up against my leg when everyone else leaves.

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I can’t stand the fact that my illness can dictate every aspect my life, but I do not want to be a ‘victim’ to it. I’ve decided that the question is this: Am I bipolar? Or do I HAVE bipolar?

As soon as I got on medication, my family relationships improved drastically. Every person in my family has stopped speaking to me for a length of time at some point in my life. Friends, too. I thought it was them, of course. But the common link was always me.

This was my mother’s last mission when she was diagnosed with cancer – to get her unstable, uninsured daughter to the doctors and have her mental health sorted out. And she did. She looked me in the eye and said, “This is why I’m still alive after three years when they gave me six months. God has given me this purpose, because I need to take care of you.”

My father was bipolar. It was called manic-depressive then. He had multiple suicide attempts and reckless behavior until he finally succeeded in 1997. After retiring from the Army as a flight instructor, he became a firefighter in California and battled wildfires by plane. One day, he flew his OV-10 Bronco into a Hollister mountain. “Pilot Error”. Sure. He called everyone to say goodbye the day before. There wasn’t enough of him left to fill a large envelope. He once said to me, “I’ll never be happy.” Dad was the most honest, fair person I’ve ever met. He was such a good person that despite being a massive fuck up, he had two funerals; a west coast memorial where he’d lived for a few years and an east coast one where he grew up, and all three of his ex-wives attended. He also self-medicated with alcohol to the point of being an alcoholic, which is why I’ve mostly been afraid to touch the stuff. To me, it’s all a drug. Meth or liquor…it’s all the same. If it alters you to where you’ll kill or hurt someone else, it’s a drug.

One time, in full mania, because my mom kept arguing instead of knowing how to shut down in order to dismantle it, he grabbed a BB gun and shot her in the hip at close range while she was doing the dishes. It broke the skin and had to be dug out. My little brother ran under the kitchen table, curled into a ball and started screaming. I ran into the laundry room. We all ended up there and my dad grabbed a hunting rifle. He aimed it at my brother and I. My mother shoved us behind her. Last minute, he lowered it and shot through the floor. My brother and I would look up through that bullet hole into our house from the basement until we moved. Another time, I slammed the bathroom door. I was about eight or nine. I can’t remember why. He broke the door open and I was behind it. The bottom of the door wedged up over my foot, breaking all bones on top. They never took me to the hospital. My uncle said this was a regular Friday night. It’s no wonder I grew up always ready to fight or defend myself. As awful as those stories sound, when my dad was being good, he was great. Really great. But when he wasn’t, he was scary as fuck. I realize now that I never knew if he was going to snap and kill us or himself, and that’s the environment where I grew up, 

Their fights were legendary. Eventually, he left. My mom would have stayed with him forever. She was one of the loyal ones. He took me, my mother got my brother.

My step-mother and I had been squabbling non-stop. He called us into the dining room, loaded a pistol with one bullet, spun the chamber, pointed it at his head and pulled the trigger. I left after that. Russian roulette was the last straw. He’d been raising me since the age of twelve off a military base in Alabama, but my senior year of high school, I moved back to Philadelphia. Living with someone who is bipolar – it was a challenge.

Those with bipolar disorder are much more affected by environment and energy than most. Colors, sounds, arguments, negativity, the news, room decor…you name it.  They’re very in tune with what’s around them and will react. That’s why all of these things need to be considered and controlled.

Not one person around me had ever figured me out. My mom and grandma had always known something was wrong, but they’d taken me to therapy only to have me misdiagnosed as clinically depressed or with anger issues.

You know how you feel there’s something wrong with you your entire life, but you just don’t know what it is? No? Well, that’s what I’ve felt like since I was a young kid. Is it cancer? Am I dying? Why do I feel so horrible and tired when I do everything right? Why do I get sick so easily? Why do I have bronchitis all the time? I eat well, I get enough sleep, I don’t do drugs or alcohol, I work out and do plenty of cardio. I was exhausted to the bone. The doctors were telling me I was perfectly healthy other than asthma. So I began to think I was a hypochondriac and everyone around me agreed and began teasing me about it. But I still knew deep down that something was integrally wrong.

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Ever since I was a teen, there were always thoughts & plans of suicide. Cutting my arms up and down with knives and blades just to see how deep I could go. When I’m not tanned, you can still see those silvery scars. Depression so exhausting, I just can’t seem to sleep it off. Being self-employed with a strong work ethic, I never missed a booking. I would drag myself out of bed, cry until the very moment I got on stage or to a shoot, clean up my makeup, paste on a dazzling smile and get through it. Not one person ever knew. I was a professional to the core…and it made me hate myself even more at times. Why couldn’t I just be myself and be left alone to heal? Not have to go out there and expend energy I had to pull out of my ass because there was none to begin with.

I was also misdiagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This is why I walked away from WCW and never pushed for WWE. I was too exhausted to travel like that. The non-stop, all hours, always delayed traveling is what kills you with WWE and WCW. It’s brutal. When I got off the road with WCW, it was so bad; I was tested for Lupus multiple times and told I had an auto-immune deficiency. I was offered a contract with WWE and had to politely turn down, too afraid I’d never be able to keep up or stay healthy. They gave me two more tryouts after that and I took them, but knew I’d never be able to work for them. People who are in great health who can get by on four or five hours of sleep suffer tremendously. I’d probably have been hospitalized after a few months…and I know that about myself.

I was misdiagnosed again as clinically depressed and given an anti-depressant. That’s the absolute worst thing you can do to someone with bipolar disorder. It swings them severely manic. Things got worse. Whereas I was occasionally alienating people beforehand, I was now ripping everyone’s heads off in my life over things so small and unimportant, I couldn’t even remember it was that made them stop talking to me in the first place.

You hurt everyone around you. You hurt yourself. And for the longest time, you have NO idea what’s wrong with you, just that you don’t feel in control and you don’t feel “right”.  With bipolar, your mind speeds, thoughts come faster than you can compute at times. I always carry a notebook so I can write things down. My brain never shuts off, so sleeping is extremely difficult. When I do, I don’t feel like I did.  Then there was uncontrollable anger.

Jordan finally figured it a year and a half ago. In 2009, he said he was leaving, that he couldn’t live like this…then Mom was diagnosed with stage-four cancer a week later. He bit the bullet and decided that going at that time wouldn’t be the right thing to do. But he gave me an ultimatum while we got “separated while living together”: That my violent behavior and impatience was unacceptable, so get fixed or else. Out of desperation to not have another failed relationship, let alone one with one of the nicest people I’d ever met – and to not be my father – I started seeing a therapist with him who casually mentioned that I should get a brain scan and perhaps the behavior was being caused by bipolar disorder. He started researching it while I traveled back and forth to Philadelphia to take care of Gram and Mom. The more he researched, the more it all clicked together. I took two tests and scored off the charts and was finally correctly diagnosed.

It was a huge relief to finally know what was wrong after all these years. Dealing with it mentally…that’s been a whole ‘nother issue. There is no cure. This will never go away. I will be on medications until the day I die. Which could be sooner than later thanks to a host of issues that come along with this like respiratory problems, severe sleep disorders (due to racing thoughts and lack of being able to actually shut off and “rest”) B-12 deficiencies and the aforementioned torture of living. I’ve been seeking as much information as possible and have become a bit of an expert on this topic. I’ve also been searching for others who are going through the same thing. I read other bipolar blogs-what these people are doing to themselves and others, saying, thinking…and for once in my life, I feel a little bit normal. Not normal, NORMAL…but normal in that there are others that are like me out there. Good people with a shit disorder that turns them from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. My only real choice in this matter is to elect to live as healthy as possible, eliminate as much negativity from my life as I can and watch my surroundings. Plus be on point for when something is coming on.

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The medications have been an ongoing chemical experiment. For someone who is holistic and doesn’t subscribe to western Big Pharma policies of “a pill to cure everything” it was a real slap in the face. I resisted at first. Admittedly, they have helped tremendously. At a cost, of course.  The main medication is an anti-seizure which doubles as an anti-psychotic. This acts as a mood stabilizer and its main side effects are moderate to severe back, neck and joint pain. To a beat up wrestler with back, neck and joint pain, this is not fun. But it’s a lifesaver. However, I’m even more drained now.  I have an inbox full of emails I don’t have the energy or drive to answer. Half the time I don’t feel like talking to anyone. I have to force myself to see friends. And those awesome manic highs I used to have where I’d write all night? Gone. I’m on so many prescriptions, it freaks me (and my wallet) out. However, I feel clear. For the first time in my life, I can think clearly instead of emotionally. There isn’t any more ridiculous fighting.

When I get my medications refilled, I affectionately call them my “crazy pills”. For once, I can choose to flip out if I want to. Or not. But I have choices, which is a first for me. Despite the damage already having been done, things around me are more peaceful and I’ve spent a lot of time this year apologizing to people in my life that I’ve hurt. Some have accepted it. Others never answered. I’m OK with that. I just wanted them to know how sorry I was for any hurt I caused.

While most of humanity can only access a small portion of their brains, there’s a valid theory that those who are bipolar can access much, much more. This is why they’re usually of quite a higher intelligence and extremely creative. This is also what causes the racing thoughts…and the irritation and impatience with others for not being able to keep up. In my case, I can sometimes do complicated math in my head in a split second without thinking about it, or while the girl at the cash register is still struggling to figure out how much change to give me. If I’m not exhausted from not sleeping, that is.

There’s a positive flip side to being manic, too. Being able to stay up all night and work very creatively and productively. Arguing efficiently. Most bipolar engage in a lot of risk taking, which can be a good thing, because we don’t have the fear others have to keep us from experiencing life. Like a nude photo shoot on the roof of Caesar’s Casino in Vegas, or leaving everything behind to jet off to Japan for a few months with absolutely no capability of speaking Japanese. We also don’t take shit. As much as this can work against you, if you can control it, it can certainly work in your favor.

As with anything, there’s always a silver lining.

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However, if you can’t control your inner Incredible Hulk, it will control you. You’ll ruin yourself and others like an IED explosion. Bipolar people not only have health issues and often die young, but they also tend to have issues such gambling, promiscuity, drug and alcohol abuse, debt, spending, violence, making (often bad) decisions that are purely emotional, on top of the fact that we perceive things differently…the list can go on. You can destroy everything you are in a single weekend.

Worst of all is that you black out. Much of it you don’t or can’t remember. All you know is that there’s a huge fucking mess around you…and you’re not quite sure how it got that way…but you have a terrible gut feeling it had to do with YOU. The flip side of THAT is the depression that sets in afterwards, which is another story.

Bipolar Trivia: The symbol for this disorder is the ‘comedy/tragedy’ theater masks.

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So.

How fucked up am I? Well, it goes beyond smashing coffee mugs, although there’s been plenty of that. I’ve gotten into more fist fights than I can recall. With both females and males. I’ve kicked out not one, but two car windshields in fits of rage. I pulled a guy out a car at a stop and pepper sprayed him and his friend in the face (and myself in the process). I jumped on stage at a huge live rock concert and threatened to beat the shit out of the mic check guy because he was being rude. (He really was.) I’ve ripped a car door off its hinges, punched holes in walls, thrown tables and sofas over. I’m strong anyway, but I become scary, super-human strong when I’m manic. I wreck shit. I’ve spent a lot of money fixing and replacing things.

Ever since I was around eleven or twelve years old, Mom used to call me Jekyll and Hyde. My family went through buckets of Spackle  I told my mom that she was the “worst fucking mother ever” while she was dying from cancer. Yeah. I did that.  I’ve said the horrible things to the people I love, the ones who love me. I’ve driven many away for good.  I almost killed my dog when she was a puppy. By accident.

There’s more, but these are a few of the stories I’ll tell you about.

This has been my entire life for as long as I can remember. Don’t make me angry.

There is a saying that life isn’t black and white – it’s shades of gray. And this is generally true except for bipolar disorder. It’s always black or white.

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I have soft spot for The Incredible Hulk. I get him. He’s smart. He does what he feels is right at the time, despite the destruction. And he can’t remember it afterwards.  Then, dejected, he retreats away from everyone to be left alone. He is classically bipolar.

In The Avengers, there was a scene where Dr. Bruce Banner was entering into the battle as himself and the others were worried that he needed to turn into The Hulk first. The insinuation was that he needed to get angry first to make the transformation. Dr. Banner smiled back at them and said that the secret to his control is that he is always angry.

There is no cure for bipolar disorder. People are delusional if they think there is a way to fix it. But learning control – that’s the key.

This started out a blog just for me, for my sanity-if I have any of that left. Then I told a few people about it and they kept pushing me to write and publish it. Some were also bipolar.

This blog got VERY long, very fast. This is just part of it.

There’s more. Much more.

 

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

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NEXT:: BIPOLAR 2: THE DARK SIDE – https://aprilhunterblog.com/2013/11/05/chapter-15-bipolar-2-the-dark-side/