Chapter 16: Bipolar For Life. Alone.

 

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

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

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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.

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