No rules, just write.

I think I’ve lost my focus a bit. When I started writing a couple of years or so ago, the purpose was to document my illness and track my progress; or lack thereof. Lately however it’s developed into something more thought out and creative. (Or at least an attempt at creativity). I intended to just pour out my thoughts and emotions, raw and unedited as my summary says. Very early in the process I decided to start a blog, thinking that maybe sharing my story would somehow help others. If nothing else, reading about what I was going through might make them feel better by comparison. I would write every day, documenting my mood and emotions. Now I’ve been looking for specific subjects and trying to make some kind of point. And I’ve had a difficult time finding things to write about.

So I’ve decided I need to go back to the beginning.

I think that with where I am in my treatment and how my life is going that it’s important to remember how I got here. I’ve been feeling really well for some time now; maybe even normal. Its’ easy to forget just about how difficult it’s been through the years. And now I catch myself thinking “Maybe I’ve been misdiagnosed after all. Maybe I don’t need the medicine anymore”.

Uh oh.

There’s a risk in going back and recalling the past. As I’ve thought about things that I’ve been through I feel like I’m being pulled back. I really am crazy after all. I’m in a good place now, but it doesn’t change the horrors of before. But I think those memories raise the vigilance, which is important in not relapsing.

Enough explanation. Go back and remember.

I guess the starting point is in my early 20’s. It wasn’t the first time I had any kind of symptoms, but it was when I began to seek out treatment on my own. Back in the day our local government had a respectable mental health system with enough resources to provide real therapy. It’s a little strange, but I don’t remember exactly why I felt the need to go there. But I do remember in vivid detail my experiences while being treated there.

Walking in the door that first time took everything I had to make myself go in. It was embarrassing. It was humiliating. It was terrifying. But taking that first step wasn’t nearly as scary as not doing anything at all. I must have known that I had a problem even if I can’t recall specifics. But I do know that the way I felt was not normal, and that I had a problem.

But oh my God it was hard admitting it.

That first appointment is just as clear as yesterday. I sat in the parking lot a long time trying to screw up the courage to get out of the car and go in. My fear of being late and the anxiety of disappointment finally got me moving; I had an appointment, I couldn’t let them down by not showing.

The smell of the clinic has stuck with me even up until now. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it was distinctive. It was a cross between a hospital and an office building. There was a smell of desperation there too. The fears, anxieties, sadness and hopelessness were tangible. The waiting area was full. And those waiting came from the full spectrum of society. There were the ones that were obviously homeless (for back then we cared about helping of them.). Sullen and angry teenagers were there, some with parents and some alone. They would huddle deep inside themselves or glare defiantly at those around them, just daring them to say anything. Overwhelmed mothers struggled to control their toddlers as they fought to maintain their responsibilities. Middle aged housewives crying softly in their own private misery. Men and women who were clearly mentally ill in the more ‘traditional’ sense; one look at them and you knew they were crazy. Old, sad people sat alone and forgotten. There were even a few people like myself, outwardly normal and not appearing to be there for treatment at all. That’s how I saw myself anyway.

I did not belong with these people. Why in God’s name am I here?

The trick was not to make eye contact. Flip through a magazine or hold a newspaper in front of you seemingly engrossed and ignoring everybody else. The worst was someone coming over to trying to strike up a conversation. I had to escape and make a dash to the restroom, praying that I could get back before being called to my appointment. These people were different; they belonged here. I felt bad for them, but did not want to be associated with them at all.

The urge to run was overwhelming.

But I stayed. I fought the panic and withdrew from everything and everyone there. My emotions and thought just completely shut down. I did everything I could to just disappear.   But time was moving intolerably slow. I had arrived early thinking I would need extra time to fill out paperwork, but finished that in just a few minutes leaving me another 45 minutes to wait. I checked the clock telling myself I wouldn’t look again for at least 5 minutes, only to look again every few seconds. Finally, it was my time. But no one came to call me back. I became more and more anxious as I waited to escape and remove myself from this horrible waiting room. Now time was flying by. It was five after…now ten… And I started setting deadlines for myself. If no one comes out by a quarter after, I was leaving. Don’t they have any consideration for me? I was here early, why couldn’t they at least be on time? That time came and went, but there was no way I would stay more than 30 minutes. Fuck it, I’ve had just about enough. But just as I was about to storm out of the building the call came. A new panic set in, but I was so intent on getting away I almost ran down the hallway; anything to escape.

And I began a life time of therapy.

It’s strange, but I really can’t remember the feelings and circumstances that drove me to seek out help that first time. But even though it’s been over 30 years ago, that first appointment is burned into my brain and I can vividly see every detail and feel every emotion as though it just happened. I can feel myself tense up even now as I put myself back into that day. I must have been there for a reason, and it must have been something significant to push me through the absolute horror I felt. I felt I was different and I didn’t belong there with all the others who waited for their own appointments. There was nothing really wrong with me; I just needed a little help to get through my current circumstance. Looking back, I had no idea just how sick I was, or the life and death struggle that lay before me.

It was just the beginning.

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It’s hell growing old.

I am not old. Then again, I’m not young either. My hair is gray, my beard is white, and my face is growing wrinkles and jowls. I can’t make it through the night without having to get up at least once to pee. I have colonoscopies and prostate exams that I never had to endure before. The majority of my family is gone now. No grandparents, no Aunts or Uncles, My Parents have been gone for years. I even lost my older Brother about 5 years ago.   Thank God I still have my sister; but it’s just her and me now.

No, there’s no way to call me young.

It seems that the definition of old has changed a great deal since I was a kid. When my parents were my age now, they were old. It’s not just my perception either, the way they lived their lives were so much different from the way we do today. They dressed older. By the time my Mom was in her mid 50’s, her clothing would be considered matronly by our current standards. It’s hard to say the same about my Dad, back then men wore suits and ties. The only thing that changed as he aged was that he went from always wearing white shirts to colored ones.   That was a result of societal changes though, not any attempts at being young. Their entertainment activities were old too. The big excitement was playing bridge with the neighbors once a month. Maybe they would go to the movies once in a while, but that was rare. I have a good friend who’s in his early 60’s who in the last 6 months has done Zip Lines, white water rafting and hang gliding. It would be preposterous to think my parents doing any of those things in their 50’s, much less 60’s.

Yet the night my father died, he told me that he still thought like an 18 years old man, not an old man about to die.

Still, I have to wonder; are the best days of my life behind me now? I’ve always been an overachiever over the years, and have been dammed successful in my accomplishments. I’ve managed people, led departments, and have even been responsible for entire companies. Now? I’m one of many who do the same thing; only responsible for my own results.

I absolutely loved raising my children. By far the absolute best memories of my life are times I spent with them. That’s actually one good thing about my illness.   I was unable to work from the time my girls were small until they entered school. There were rough times of course. But what I was able to share with them then was beyond price. My girls are now grown and gone with careers and families of their own. I’ve done what I can, good and bad, and they are responsible for what happens for the rest of their lives.

I’ll never see those childhood days again.

But does that mean I’m done?   Have I really completed any meaningful living? I can’t believe it; I won’t believe it. I may have climbed as high as I ever will up that corporate ladder, but I’m still working and have a good job with a great company. I don’t have the great responsibility I once had, but I don’t have the stress and pressure that went along with it either. I can still be successful and get satisfaction of a job well done. I’ve got plenty of fun things left to do too. I love to golf and have every reason to expect that to continue at least 20 more years. Some of the worst shellacking’s I’ve ever received on a golf course have been from guys in their 70’s. It’s not how far you can hit a ball it’s where you hit a ball. Age gives you patience and experience. And how fun is that to beat guys half your age? I’ve always loved to dance and there’s no reason to stop now! I don’t have the stamina to do a fast Lindy hop, but east coast swing and shag is still moving to the music, and that’s what dancing is after all. I’m in a good relationship that is fulfilling and real. Yes, she has wrinkles and colors the gray out of her hair, but she’s more beautiful and sexy to me than any 20 year old. Another advantage of being older; you learn that the inner self is what is beautiful. That can only get better, right? My kids might be grownups now, but I have the possibility of accepting spouses and grandchildren to love. It might be different, but can be just as important to me as before.

I’ll be honest I never thought I would live to be 40 years old. Not because when you’re young you can’t imagine what it’s like to be older. I knew that there was something wrong with me, and never expected to survive, especially with the number of times I tried to prevent it. When I made it to 40, reaching 50 still felt very unlikely. And yet, here I am. And with my awareness and treatment I think that living to 60, 70 or even longer is possible and likely.

Are the best years of my life over? Who really knows? I could be hit by a bus on my way home tonight. I could contract some terminal illness; I may already have one that I don’t know about. My depression might return in spite of everything I’m doing, and I could end up finally being successful at killing myself. On succumb to some outrageously dangerous behavior in a manic rage.

Any day could be the last one.

I have the power to decide how I measure my days. Maybe my career advancement has peaked. I may not be able to perform the way I once did. I’ve had my time as a family man and a busy life with the wife and kids. But whether I see that as better or worse is a matter of perspective and choice. I can mourn the passing of youth or embrace the changes of life. My Dad chose to live the life of an old man, but never stopped feeling young. So what will I choose? Have I reached the top? Am I coasting to the end? Or is the best yet to come?

I’ll let you know tomorrow. Today isn’t over yet.

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Mirror, Mirror

Opinions; we all have them, and for the most part we believe that our opinions are the correct ones. Everyone has a different perspective, a different background, different experiences and different life circumstances that shape what we believe and why. Often there doesn’t even seem to be any rhyme or reason behind what people think, and can be completely contradictory to other opinions they have.

Yet, they are right, and you are wrong.

I have a friend like that who drives me crazy sometimes. He is extremely liberal politically, and is constantly spouting off against conservatives. And not just expressing disagreement, but vehemently attacking them; calling them idiots, bastards, ignorant and selfish. He has very strong opinions about how conservatives are wealthy, oppressive of those who aren’t the same. And that the US Government panders to them and gives unfair tax breaks and incentives, and as a result don’t carry their share of the burden. Okay; that’s his opinion, and I respect it. What I don’t respect however is his aggressive and intolerant way of expressing himself.

But here’s the thing. He also happens to be Gay.

I have absolutely no problem with anyone’s sexuality. Where this figures in is, he demands that everyone accept who he is and how he is. He expects that no matter what background you come from, or what your religion teaches, or however you form an opinion, his own opinion must be approved and tolerated.  He has the right to live as he chooses.  He has the right to be married to his partner.  He has the right to have the same legal standing and entitled to the same benefits as heterosexuals.  And if you don’t give him that right, they you are absolutely wrong.  Period.

Wait, What? What about his tolerance of those who have different political opinions.

And to make it even more irrational, he’s spent his entire life very involved with his Church. He’ll post bible quotes about loving your fellow man, then immediately follow up with one that says this particular politician makes him want to vomit.

Isn’t that a bit hypocritical? Just a bit? Ya think?

Personally, even though my own views and political leanings are different, I believe he has every right to believe what he believes, and to a certain degree express them in any fashion he likes. Where I take offense if how he can demand that he be tolerated but won’t give the same to anyone else. Various people including Voltaire and Evelyn Beatrice Hall have been credited with the quote “I disapprove with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

I 100% agree with that.

But it’s a lot more than just political leanings. All too often our opinions and expectations are based on our own perspective. One lesson I had a hard time learning when I was a manager was not to hold my employees to the same standard I held myself. That is totally unfair for a number of reasons. I’m not saying I’m smarter, or a harder worker, or better in any way. I might just have a different skill set, or experience that give me different results. If we were all the same, we wouldn’t need managers at all. Why have leaders when we are all capable of the same outcomes? We should expect the same level of service from a fast food worker as a physician; they both provide a service, right? I can understand how salaries are tied to the level of contribution, why can’t they? It’s a matter of perspective. It’s a matter of experience. It’s a matter of education. It’s a matter of intelligence.

Yes, I said intelligence. Not everybody has the same intellectual abilities. It’s not better or worse, it’s just a fact.

There’s a saying going around on Facebook that points out the need for tolerance. I’m sure I don’t have it exactly right, but I think it captures the idea.

That girl you called a slut in class today. She’s a virgin. The “gay boy” you punched in the hall today committed suicide a few minutes ago. The boy you called poor. He has to work every night to support his family. That girl you pushed down the other day. She’s already being abused at home. That girl you called fat. …She’s starving herself. The old man you made fun of cause of the ugly scars. He fought for our country. The boy you made fun of for crying. His mother is dying. You think you know them. Guess what? You don’t!

Isn’t that the truth? Who are we to judge anyone?

I’m Bipolar. I go to great lengths to keep that hidden away from everyone except a few very close friends. Why is that? For starters, unless you have lived through the horrors of a severe depression you cannot possibly understand the utter hopelessness. You might sympathize, but you can never empathize. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told during a mania to ‘quit driving like a maniac’, ‘just calm down’ or ‘why do you have to be like that”. Well, I’m manic, and in the grips of an episode I can’t control my actions. And that’s something you can never understand.   Even from person to person each experience is going to be unique. Everybody has their own pain threshold; their own reactions to circumstances; their own history; and their own level of illness. Not right or wrong; just unique.

But even that’s not it. Not really.

It truly isn’t important to me whether others can truly appreciate my being bipolar. What is important is that I am acknowledged and accepted. There is unquestionably a stigma surrounding mental illness (not just bipolar) that creates intolerance and fear. Some of it is a lack of education. Society can dictate what is or is not acceptable. It might even be personal experience, that crazy relative or friend that was so out of control. Regardless of the reason, my illness is my own secret.

I don’t want to be judged.

We all have opinions, and we all should. The world would be a very boring place if everybody thought and behaved the same way. And I’m sure I’m guilty of some of this myself.  Is it fair that I am so intolerance of intolerance? Don’t I demand that my condition is just as accepted as others? What I hope, what I strive for is my own patience with those who may not see things the same way. I want to learn to live with others, even with their hypocrisy and prejudice. Honestly it’s not just unrealistic, it’s truly impossible to think that the world can learn to get along. But when I look at myself in the mirror, I want to see a man who at least tries to get along.

A man I can be proud of.

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A day of celebration!

The Daughter of someone special to me is getting married this weekend. The last six months has been a whirlwind of activity and more than a little stressful as they’ve prepared for this day. It’s a time for the bride to have her time in the spotlight as it should be. I think it’s important however that my friend can celebrate her own role in getting to this moment. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, ignoring everything else and not acknowledging all the feelings that she has to be feeling. She put together a letter to her daughter expressing her love and awe of the woman she’s become.

I felt it only fair that she get’s the same.

To my friend:

Today is a day of excitement! A time of joy. A celebration of family. A bit of sadness and some moments of reflection.

Your baby girl is getting married!

How is that even possible? The tiny little infant you held in your arms wasn’t that long ago. It seems like just yesterday she was taking her first steps; tying her own shoes; a first day at school. There were so many difficult, long days yet they’ve passed so fast. Oh, the crisis’s of pimples and bad hair days. The anxieties of new environments. Her struggles to grow to into an adult. Yet here she is; beautiful, accomplished and strong. That sweet little baby is a woman.

And what a woman she is! Could there be anyone sweeter? She has a career and the brightest of futures. And the strength of character is steadfast and true. And you know why?

It’s all because of you.

Yes, it takes two to create a life. But not everyone is fit to be a parent. Any man can be a father, but that doesn’t make him a daddy.   And so it was. You were left with the responsibilities of dealing with the day to day, teaching morals, shaping personalities and creating this young woman who is moving into the next stage. And the credit is yours, and yours alone. It’s difficult enough to be a single parent, but how much harder is it to not be single, but alone just the same? A true testament to your own strength of character and morals. You should be very proud.

I know I am.

It’s a bittersweet time, I know. The joy you share with your baby is tinged with a feeling of loss. Your little girl is moving into a new life. Some grieving at the passing is expected, even necessary. Allow yourself the time to feel that loss and deal with the change. I know you will. I also know that you will always cherish the time you’ve had, and will continue to be a significant part of her life. No matter the changes, you will always be “Mom”. And now you have another son to call your own. Your family is growing, not shrinking. And who knows what else is in store?   Only time will tell.

 And the future unfolds. Your daughter is moving into a new place, and so are you! Now it’s your time! There’s no reason to feel the best has passed; the best is yet to come! You’ll always have your family, and they will always be the priority in your life. You have the opportunity now to take care of yourself and be the awesome woman you are, unencumbered and without restrictions. You’ve learned a lot over the years, and mostly about what you haven’t had. Those are not lost years, but a preparation for what’s to come. You know what you want; you know what’s important; and now you can have it. The waste of time would have been trying to figure all that out now instead of being ready to come into your own.

You have a beautiful daughter. Both your children are amazing. They’ve chosen wisely and have partners that are worthy of their love, and can love in return. One has given you awesome grand children, and I’m sure there will come a time when the other will give you more. You are an accomplished and successful in the greatest job you could ever have. The evidence is before you, and now is time to reap the rewards of your efforts. Savor each and every moment. Feel the love. Celebrate life.

You’ve earned it. Now enjoy it!

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What were once habits are now vices

I am a creature of habit.

Every day it’s the same routine. I wake up at 5:00am, drink coffee until 6:00am, shower, make my lunch, get coffee to go and leave for work. Once I’m there, I get my day organized, and start counting hours until I can leave again. Then I’m home by 5:00pm, spend some time on the internet, maybe have a drink and either chill out in front of the TV or go to my Girlfriend’s house. Time in front of the TV is one of two things; either watching the same drama series that I’m recording or watching Football. Unless there’s a dancing show that is. There are two dancing series that I don’t ever miss.

Day after day….

Weekends are pretty predictable as well. Saturday is my day to completely vegetate. I might putter around the house a bit, take a nap (or two) then on to my Girlfriends in the early evening. We typically either hang out at her house, or go to one of three clubs for dancing. (Of course she’s in the midst of a rather divorce, so dancing is out at the moment.) Sundays I mow my lawn and do laundry.

Every weekend…

Speaking of lawns; have you ever noticed how people take care of their yards?   When I’m mowing mine I have time to think about things like that, and think that they way people mow says a lot about them. There’s the perimeter in method. That’s where you start on the outside edges and follow the contour of the yard in one big circle; moving in until the center is cut. Some people just go back and forth; starting at one side of the yard and working their way across, one strip at a time. You can cut the grass at a diagonal leaving your lawn looking like a well maintained golf course.   Then there’s frequency. The neighbor across the street from me mows only when he absolutely has to; then has to struggle to keep his mower from cutting off in the high grass. My next door neighbor cuts his grass twice a week; whether it needs it or not. His yard always looks like a carpet.

I myself am geometric mower. I mow in sections; usually in rectangle, although sometimes a triangle depending on the topography. And the way I cut is always the exact same way.   Always. The size and location of my rectangles are consistent. I always cut in the same direction, and the same location in the same order. Once or twice I’ve tried to mix it up and got completely out of sorts; it just wasn’t right.

So what does that say about us? I think you could spend hours (weeks, years?) trying to analyze the factors that determine these different behaviors. Maybe I’ll do that some day.

For me, it says I’m habitual in all aspects of my life.

Or is it habit? I’m completely comfortable with my routine, but let me step out of that zone and I’m a wreck. If I can even get out of that zone that is. There are things that I need to do that I really struggle with; often just not doing them at all.

Clothes shopping for example.

Okay, most men hate shopping. They go in a store, take a quick look around, and if they don’t see what they are looking for, immediately leave to go to the next store. If they do find something, it’s a quick sorting for size then up to pay. I really wish I could do that.   Just the thought of going into a clothing store brings up a feeling of panic. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven to a mall and left without ever even stopping the car. I drive through the parking lot, and then use any excuse I can to leave. It might be that there’s not a parking spot or it’s too crowded, it’s raining, it’s hot; I just turn around and go home. Even if I make it into a store, I typically just walk through in a quick circle glancing at prices and what’s on sale. I may stop for just a second to look closer at something, but quickly move on.

I’ve been wearing the same clothes now for probably 3 or 4 years. They are starting to look it too.

In the past I’ve usually had someone (read: spouse) do most of my shopping for me. Or even if they didn’t just buy it outright they would go with me, which seems to make it easier. But I live alone now, and there’s no one to take care of this for me.

Going into any unknown situation is almost as bad. Stress over social events is pretty common I think. Most people aren’t comfortable going into a room of strangers and mingle. I’m no exception of course, but it’s much more than that. ANY new situation is extremely stressful for me. It might be walking into a hospital to visit someone; it’s so hard for me not knowing where to go. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been there before and I know the drill I struggle with my emotional response. Going to a meeting at work when I’m not sure where it’s located, who is involved and what the agenda is just knots up my stomach. And so forth and so on; I’m sure you get the drift.

The odd thing about this is that I’ve generally been confident and take charge. I’ve had jobs over the years where I’m responsible for leading scores of employees. I’ve held meetings with senior executives and with line workers; both with ease. I’ve given speeches to an auditorium holding 500 people or more. I’ve had parties with 50 or more friends and had no difficulty in being the gracious host. I’ve traveled the world on business and I was usually by myself.

That was then; this is now.

So what changed? Why have I developed such an aversion of straying from the routine? I’m not talking about a sense of unease; my level of anxiety frequently approaches panic, and frequently makes me incapable of doing what I need to. My therapist calls it an anxiety disorder. Ya think? But it’s not something I’ve always dealt with. Sure, growing up I was very shy and isolated. In fact, now that I think about it I had much the same troubles then as I do now. It’s just been certain times where I’ve been that confident, outgoing person. It’s been almost like having two different personalities; one strong and gregarious, the other meek and withdrawn. I seem to have personality traits that are completely opposite from each other.

It’s almost like being bipolar. Oh, wait. I AM bipolar.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming these behaviors on my illness; it really doesn’t work that way. I think what I’m dealing with is truly a personality disorder separate and apart from the Mood disorder. Now that I’m not so engulfed in battling the bipolar illness I can start to focus on other influences that affect behaviors.

My therapist was very happy the first time I brought this up.

In her professional opinion and experience, there is a big difference between disorders and traits. A person with a disorder generally has no clue. It’s not something that they can see in themselves or even recognize it as abnormal. Narcissists for example typically believe that they deserve to be the center of attention all the time, and that he’s entitled to all the special treatment. That is, if they ever even think about it at all. A trait on the other hand is the tendency to behave in certain ways. And tendencies can be realized; and changed. Much like the bipolar disease itself; if you are aware of it you can treat it. And if you can’t see it or are in denial, then it’s not ever going to get any better. The same is true with personality traits. I know it’s not normal to be so anxious stepping outside of my comfort zone. The panics I feel are not appropriate to the event that precipitates it.

So there’s hope.

That’s my new challenge, and my next focus for therapy. I want to identify the sources of these feelings, and develop tools and techniques to overcome the fear. It’s taken a really long time to accomplish any success at all dealing with bipolar, so I don’t expect an overnight change with this next step. But now that I’m feeling better in general, I want to feel better in all environments. I at least want to have appropriate reactions to situations and circumstances. I know I have the self confidence and social skills, I’ve just allowed history and environments to rob me of them. The goal of my therapy doesn’t end with proper management of my illness; it’s going to be a lifelong effort to make my life as successful as possible.

Because if I don’t buy some clothes soon, I’ll be working naked.

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How to stop a suicide

A longtime friend lost his battle with chronic illness and depression to suicide. It’s very sad, but what deeply troubles me even more is that there are so few resources available to people who struggle with depression. Some of you will say but yes, there are plenty of resources if you look for them. That may be true if you have the financial means to pay for it. But in reality, affordable mental health care is almost impossible to find.

This was from a conversation I had with a friend recently. There is a lot of truth to what he says too. Our mental health system has declined significantly over the last number of years when it comes to dealing with crisis and long term care. And this lack of services has without question contributed to unnecessary suffering. But is it the lack of ability to pay for the services available the reason a person kills themselves? I don’t think so.

Just ask Robin Williams, Curt Cobain, Hunter S. Thompson, or Tony Scott just to name a few.

Do you think that these people didn’t have the means to obtain help? Out of the thousands of suicides each year, could the majority of them been saved if mental health services and been readily available? Is it really that simple? Can suicide be prevented by providing affordable and accessible care?

People don’t kill themselves because they can’t get help. People kill themselves because they are miserably unhappy.

That being said, the state of mental health care in this country is woefully inadequate. A number of years ago there developed a trend to ‘privatize’ psychiatric services. Governments believed that without state sponsored facility care would be picked up by local, private providers. They decided that each community could take care of their own. In reality though, what that did was greatly decrease needed resources particularly acute crisis response. A 60 minute episode recently did a story on this very thing. I won’t quote numbers, but the upshot of it was that the number of psychiatric beds in the US had decreased by 50% or more. That’s hundreds of thousands of inpatient beds. According to an interview with an Emergency Room Doctor, Hospital Emergency Rooms have been overwhelmed with people in severe emotional distress.

Wait a minute. You can go to an Emergency Room for psych care?

Yes, mental episodes can be an emergency, and the doctors can keep you safe. Safe for a little while that is. Without inpatient facilities many people who seek out help in ER’s are either turned away, or released still in crisis because there’s nowhere else for them to go. Undoubtedly, all too many of these people end up taking their own life.

But for every person seeking help, how many are there that are suffering in silence?

I’ve physically and intentionally hurt myself so many times. There have been multiple attempts at suicide; and a couple of them damn near successful. I have spent months in complete, abject misery and despair. During manic episodes I have endangered not only myself, but many of those around me. I sometimes have wondered if the extreme risk taking behaviors are really a subconscious attempt to kill yourself. And each and every time I was so unhappy and struggling so hard I was in some form of mental health treatment.

And I still wanted to die.

My friend went on to say that ‘he had personally experienced the problems with inadequate mental health services’. He was trying to manage his depression without drugs, and could not find any provider that could help him with this. The doctors he could find were out of network for his insurance, and he couldn’t afford the high co-pays.

This isn’t a lack of available care; it’s just that he doesn’t like the care he has available.

I don’t know the whole story of course, but the implication is that his depression is manageable with medication, but his choice is to learn to deal with it ‘naturally’. I wonder what would happen if his depression got so bad he decided he couldn’t live with it anymore. Would he take medications then? Would he be able to get them? I strongly suspect that he’s never truly been in that darkest of places.  Otherwise, he would know.

No one else can make the pain stop.

Okay, I’m going to play both sides of the fence. Our mental health system is broken. The streets are full of people who are homeless and wandering around with untreated illnesses. The available services are completely overwhelmed, and unable to offer much more than very basic help. There just too many needing help, and too few to provide it. Years ago I experienced this when I was going to a county provided mental health clinic. They basically threw drugs at me; there was very little time of actually therapy. The waiting room at this facility was always packed with scores of people needing help and getting very little of it. And I’m completely convinced that there have been lives lost that could have been saved with proper care and intervention.

I’ve been unbelievably fortunate that my current therapist continued to see me when I was unemployed and unable to pay anything. There are a number of support groups in my area, and they have proven to be a fantastic resource. Even before I accepted that I had a chronic, potentially life threatening illness I always have sought out help.

Having this help has undoubtedly saved my life on more than one occasion.

Flip, flop; flip flop.  I know, I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth here. But there is a point to all of this. While we desperately need more mental health resources, suicides can and do happen to people who have the finest care available. Because in the end, suicides doesn’t always happen because of a lack of care.

Suicide happens because of a lack of hope.

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Timing is everything…

Once I decided to start dating again after the breakup of my last marriage, it took a while before I was up to doing any dating. There was a long period where even the thought of being with someone new was terrifying, but after a while I did get involved with someone. But it was a situation where we had been friends for a while, and were both coming out of a bad relationship. There’s no doubt that it was significant, but we were (are) really better off as friends.

When that ended, dating became a mission.

I was on several internet dating sites, and I met scores of women. There are a lot of lonely people out there, and I never had any problems meeting anyone. So I did. The number of times I was going out each week was ridiculous, and always with a different woman. I rarely had a second date, and even more unusual to have a third. I wasn’t going to waste my time or theirs on anything more if there wasn’t a real interest. I know, it sounds like I was desperate to have a relationship, but I really don’t think so. I didn’t want to be alone all the time, and there are a lot of activities that are so much more enjoyable when you have someone to share them with. (Going to the movies by yourself isn’t all that great for example). But I wasn’t so focused on anything more than a friendly relationship. In fact, I was pretty adamant that I was NOT going to get deeply involved with anyone – maybe ever.

But that may be changing a little.

So I’ve been seeing someone on a regular, even exclusive basis for a while now. In the grand scheme of things it hasn’t been that long, but with my attitude of anything long term it has. We’ve been seeing each other for 10 months now, and I don’t see any reason it should end. It really feels like a healthy relationship. We really enjoy being together, and in ways that are beyond just ‘dating’. But we also have our time apart, and that’s just as important. I’ve learned how to be happy by myself, and in fact crave that time alone. I moved into a new house about 5 months ago, and I really love the place. I’ve done some fixing up with things like painting and some gardening, and just enjoy spending time there. Oddly enough, it was built about the same time as the house I grew up in, and is laid out almost exactly the same. It’s very comforting to be there. I love to read, and have the time to do so. I took in my Mom’s cat when she died, and it makes up both happy just hanging out watching television; me relaxing in my recliner, her curled up on my lap. My life feels balanced, and I think it’s good.

Here’s the thing though, what do I share about my past?

I’ve told her I’m bipolar. She knows I take medications every day, and that I see my therapist every week. I’ve told her that I’ve had problems controlling my moods, and there have been times it’s been really bad. She even knows that my diagnosis is type I. What I haven’t done though is get into the details. In past relationships I have talked about specifics of my past. I never admitted I was bipolar; but I had not admitted it to myself either. I couldn’t disclose something I didn’t know about. But I did get into what detail I had.   We talked about hospitalizations and great struggles with depression. Of course, I always had an explanation for the reasons, and could justify why it wasn’t going to be a problem going forward. I wasn’t intentionally misleading, I had just misled myself.

It’s a little different this time.

Like I said, I haven’t hidden the fact that I’m bipolar. I have talked some about some of the issues I have every year during the fall and winter. What I haven’t done is gone into the sordid depths and horrors of all I’ve experienced. If she’s ever asked questions about something specific I’ve always answered honestly. We have a friend who is in very dire straits, and has become severely depressed. Other than encourage her to seek help I have made a point not to tell her what I think she should do, and provide what insight I can to them both on what depression can be like and just how bad it can become. I’ve learned a great deal about psychiatric medications over the years, and have shared what I know as we’ve talked about the different ones. (Always preferencing it with a disclaimer that it’s my opinion, not fact) She’s a smart girl, I’m sure she has put two and two together, and realizes that I’ve had to get my experience from somewhere.

So why haven’t I disclosed more?

My therapist and I have spoken at great length about this. Even from the beginning when I was concerned about when I should bring up being bipolar. Her feelings about it are that while it’s important to disclose the illness, there’s no need to get into the nitty-gritty. She has several reasons for this. The new relationship is still developing, and she needs to be able to see the real me, and not be clouded by the fear of the past. It gives her a chance to know what I’m really like, and not what the disease can make me. If there is a new episode, she’ll be able to see what is real and what is the disease.

Hmmmmmm.

Another rationalization is that I’ve have progressed so far in my treatment, and have really created an environment for myself that has proven very successful in managing the symptoms and preventing new episodes. Not only that, her experience is that the older you are the less impact the illness has. Based on her interaction with me over the years, she believes that there’s a very good chance that I won’t have any new episodes; at least none that I can’t handle.

Hmmmmm… possibly. That’s the goal for sure.

Finally, she thinks that the less I dwell on the past the less likely I am to repeat it. Not that I should ignore it completely; I need that knowledge to recognize warning signs that help me keep my moods controlled. Her thought though is that the more normal I act, the more normal I’ll be. (Not like the time years ago, when a boss told me that I should dress like the job I want, not the job I have. It didn’t end well when I showed up to work the next day dressed like Batman!) The brain responds to repetitive actions much like muscles do. I haven’t played golf in a number of years, but put a club back in my hand and muscle memory will take over and I’ll have my swing back in no time. How many times have you heard, ‘it’s just like riding a bike? Once you learn, you never forget’. So what she wasn’t me to do is ‘train’ my brain in normal life.

I have to admit, she’s on to something there.

When I’m together with my lady friend, I don’t really think about being bipolar at all. I am aware of my moods, but not wrapped up in them. If I have a bad day, I can accept it for just that; a bad day. We all have them, and we all have our ways of dealing with them. And she’s been great with her encouragement and support during those times. And I do the same for her. Everybody has good days and bad, and it’s normal to want to help people to cope. In fact, last night she was completely wired! She had been overwhelmed with work and had gone at a frantic pace all day, and when she got home she was still moving at 100 miles an hour. It actually felt a little manic. So we sat together and watched some mindless television. I stayed as calm as possible, and just let her vent and get as much tension out as she could. Later, I gave her a back rub. And on my days, she’s just as good. Of course, there have been times when we have both had bad days at the same time, but we’ve been able to recognize that and we stayed apart until we had worked through everything. I really believe that this is a good, healthy relationship that we are developing.

But I really have mixed emotions about the way I’m handling this. I’ve been honest with her about the fact that I have this illness. But at the same time, I feel that the omission of specifics is misleading. A lot of what my therapist says makes sense. My gut however doesn’t always agree. This is an important relationship, and I’m committed to put all I can into making it successful. And we both have history that we don’t get into any details. We both know about our respective divorces, we do not talk about them at all. Maybe there are things she’s done or behaviors that I wouldn’t like, but every situation is different, and the fact that she may have acted differently before doesn’t mean she’ll do the same now.

So I think that I’ve got a compromise that I can live with.

I’m comfortable with the fact that I’ve disclosed my diagnoses. Likewise, the discussions about when my moods are likely to shift, and that I’ve been through some really bad times are fair and honest. As time goes on, and the relationship deepens I will be sensitive to the situation and add experiences as is appropriate. My therapist has suggested that at some point I bring her with me to one (or more) of my sessions, where she can provide her insight into all that’s happened and what she expects going forward. There’s the opportunity too to educate, and to let her know what to watch for and how to respond to changing behaviors. That makes sense to me, and for now at least sounds like a good plan. I do not want to lie to her, and I certainly don’t want to hurt her. At the same time, I do want to see this progress, and don’t want to blow it before it really has a chance. Honestly though, the jury is still out on how I feel about handling this. I could easily change my mind tomorrow.

I’m just taking it day by day.

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Give or take

One of the things I’ve noticed about people is that some are givers and some are takers. And then there are those that are so caught up in their own lives that they are neither. Much like the extremes of being bipolar being either is not necessarily good or bad as long as it isn’t over the top.

I’ve lost another friend this week. Well, I’m using the term ‘friend’ loosely; I guess she never really was much of a friend after all.

For you see, she was a taker.

I don’t mind helping people at all; in fact, I enjoy it. And I regularly helped this lady quite a bit. She was very crafty, and she frequently asked me to give her a hand; mostly with lifting heavy things or giving advice on how to get things put together. She said she valued my sense of style (What the hell?) and asked my opinion on decorating her house and yard. When her car broke down, she called me to pick her up and take her home while she arranged for a tow truck. And I was more than happy to do what I could for her. After all, isn’t that what friends are for?   She had two big dogs, and one time she asked me to watch them while she was out of town. She had a regular dog sitter that she paid, but something came up last minute and she wasn’t able to do it. I like her dogs, and it was no problem even though it was 10 miles out of my way twice a day. The next time she went out of town, she asked me first. (She didn’t have to pay me, remember?) It was for a few more days this time, and she suggested I just stay at her house so I could spend more time with her dogs. Okay, this is starting to really interfere with my routine. Then she went home for a week at Christmas. This time, she didn’t even ask; she told me she was leaving and left me a detailed list of instructions on what I needed to do while she was gone. It wasn’t just watching her dogs, but she had several ‘projects’ that she wanted me to do; like clean her carpets! I let her know I wasn’t happy about it, but by the time she told me it was too late for her to line up anyone else. Oh, but after she was gone she called me and said that it wasn’t going to be for a week… she had a business trip the following week and it was going to be two weeks before she got home. That was completely over the top, and I was really feeling taken advantage of.

And when she got home, she barely even thanked me. She was more interested in my report on how her dogs did, and checking out how I had done with her projects.

In fact, for all the things I did for her I never really got any thanks. And she never helped me with anything or voluntarily did anything nice for me at all. Now, I didn’t do what I did just so she would do for me, but I do kind of expect that as a friend, she would at least show some appreciation.

So much for being a friend.

I’ve known people who were too much into taking care of others, almost always at their own expense. I dated a woman for a while who insisted on giving me a present every time we got together. Not like a card, or something simple; she gave big presents. Like the time she gave me a fifth of my favorite scotch, which is about $50 US. It was like that ever time even though I told her over and over not to. And the concerts she took me to! She bought tickets to see Diana Krall and BB King, which were well over $100 a seat! I tried to refuse, but she had already paid for the tickets and said they would just be wasted. It was very uncomfortable, and I let her know that her behavior was a problem for me. And she couldn’t or wouldn’t stop… So I had to stop it myself. I stopped seeing her.

Then there are the real extremes.

Another woman I knew built her entire life around doing things for others. She especially got involved when there was some major problem that she could jump in and take care of. Her need was so strong that when there was no one who needed her help she would create a crisis so that she would have someone, something that she could give herself to. Obviously there was no time to take care of herself, and even when she actually needed help she would refuse, like the time she had surgery and didn’t even tell anyone; she took care of herself.

I think maybe she was a bit co-dependent.

My Girlfriend’s ex-husband is the epitome of a taker. It’s not enough for him to just accept the attention of others, he demanded it. You did things his way, period. If he needed anything, you came no questions asked. His clothes had to be freshly ironed for him every morning, and they’d better be clean! Whatever he decided to wear that day had to be available. They were involved in the Shag Dancing club. Now, the Shag is a man’s dance, it’s designed to make him look good. Not only did he think he looked good, he would get angry when someone would remark about how good she danced. But his need for attention really crossed the line. He had multiple affairs throughout their marriage, from one night stands to ongoing trysts. It was all about him and his satisfaction. Forget morality, respect or responsibility; he wanted what he wanted, and expected everyone to give it to him.

I did mention he was her ex-husband, right?

That’s one of the reasons I like this woman so much. She hasn’t ever had anyone who cared enough to do things for her. It was hard for her to accept any help, especially in the beginning. She was used to doing everything by herself she was uncomfortable having anyone else do for her. Over time, she has learned to accept help. And she’s always very appreciative. She is a giver herself, especially now that she has become more accustomed to being in a new relationship. We give to each other, from the silly little things to more significant help. She puts encouraging notes in my lunch bag; I leave romantic notes for her to find in her home. She gives me romantic cards; I send her flowers. If she cooks dinner, I clean and vice versa. I’ve repaired broken equipment in her house and she’s helped me paint mine. Whenever I’m having a bad time, she’s there for me. And I’ve been there for her.

That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? It’s all about balance. Not too much, not too little, but shared equally. That’s true with pretty much everyone, isn’t it? And that’s true when it comes to managing my bipolar disorder too. It’s my goal to balance the mood swings, with not too much of an extreme on either end. It’s okay to be excited about something, just like it is okay to be sad. The key is to be appropriate for the circumstance. And, just like relationships, I’m happiest when I can give to others while continuing to take care of myself.

Whether in a relationship, with friends or managing my disease I’m not always successful. There have certainly been times when I’ve taken way more than I should have; selfishly accepting without giving back. And there are times that I’ve given too much at my own expense. I won’t even talk about keeping the moods in balance, or taking care of myself. Most of my life has been out of control with that.

But one way I do try to keep things where they need to be is to surround myself with others who have that healthy balance. It’s so much easier for me to feel healthy when I’m around people who help when needed and accept when they need help. Yes, I’ve lost a lot of friends over the past year or so, some that have been significant at various points in my life. And while friendships aren’t about what they can do for me, I believe that if they are truly your friend they will do for you just as you will for them. Even my therapist says that I haven’t lost friends; I’ve eliminated barriers to my recovery. I don’t want to be overly selfish, nor do I want to be taken advantage of.   I am just looking for balance.

Give or take.

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Ticking… ticking.

Music is the window into the soul…

How true is that?  I’ve often heard people speak of how the music they grew up with has influenced their lives.  For me however, it’s quite the opposite.  I listened to and identified with songs that expressed my feelings, not the ones that affected them.

And I have to admit; it wasn’t pretty.

I grew up in the 1960’s, and reached adulthood in the 1970’s.  The music of the 60’s was more about social change directly or indirectly.  Pete Seeger, Alro Guthrie, Bob Dylan, The Band, The Grateful Dead; they all covered the evolving world.  Even acts like Sonny and Cher were different; never before had there been such openness about relationships.

But the music of the 70’s; Ah yes, the 70’s.

I went from puberty to young adulthood in the 1970’s.  Even from a rather early age, my self image and melancholy feelings drove my choice of music.  And at the time, there was so much being produced that matched my moods so well.

Generally, the beach is a happy place of family vacations and fun. Things that I remember early in my teens were sitting on the boardwalk overlooking the ocean singing the Beatles “Nowhere Man” to myself.  That was a perfect description of how I saw myself; all those around me were playing, making new friends, and having quality time with their family.

I hadn’t even turned 13, yet I just felt so alone sitting there watching it all.

Another artist that captured my youth so well was Janice Ian.  “At Seventeen” as a perfect expression of my life at the time.

“To those of us who knew the pain, of valentines that never came.  And those whose names were never called when choosing sides for basketball.  Wow; that was my life.  “The valentines I never knew, The Friday night charades of youth, Were spent on ones more beautiful…”

At seventeen I learned the truth.

Elton John and Bernie Taupin were absolute genius when it came to describing my life.  Sure, most of their tunes were upbeat and fun.  But there was a dark side too.  “Madman across the water”; hardly a happy story.  “We’ll come again next Thursday afternoon, the in-laws hope they’ll see you very soon.  But is it in your conscience that you’re after…Another glimpse of the madman across the water”.   To me that spoke of trying to hide the madness within, failing and being institutionalized.  Maybe that’s not what they intended, but that’s how I heard it.  The epitome however was “Ticking”.  What a scary song, yet appropriate.

“’An extremely quiet child’ they called you in your school report.  He’s always taken interest in the subjects that he’s taught.  So what was it that brought the squad car screaming up your drive.  To notify your parents of the manner in which you died.” 

The misery I felt at even an early age often ended in fantasies of suicide and death.  I fully expected that someday that squad car would be pulling up the drive.

“Some gook said ‘His brain just snapped’, Then someone called the police”  

Yes, that was me.  Always on the edge, just waiting for that moment when I’d had enough.  There was nothing specific, but a vague feeling that I could easily lose control and the anger inside would spill over.  Today I would call that a manic rage.

“And his parents never thought of him as their troubled son”

Maybe my parents knew of my struggles, and maybe they didn’t.  Frankly, I had such little connection with them at that time I don’t know just how much they realized.  In fairness, it could have been my own self isolation that I felt so removed, but regardless, I felt abandoned to misery.

“’Now you’ll never get to Heaven’ Mama said.  Remember Mama said, Ticking, ticking.  Grow up straight and true blue, run along to bed.  Hear it, hear it, ticking ticking”

The expectation of my parents and society in general just added to my angst and anger.  I can’t grow up normally; I’m not normal!  I had no idea what was wrong, but something definitely was.

“Ticking, ticking”

“Oh your childhood cried out in your head ‘they mean to do you harm’”

How did they know?  How could they possibly know?  But they did.

The overt story of this song is about a young man who goes berserk and starts killing people.  And no, I never had that feeling, and wasn’t capable of fathoming such a monstrous act.  I never, EVER had any thoughts of hurting anyone besides myself.  Just the thought of it is horrendous.  I certainly don’t condone it, or even understand it.  What I identified with was the pain, the isolation and loneliness that I felt in the song.

There was happy music of the time of course.  I’d sing along with The Three Dog Night “Joy to the World” when it came on my transistor radio (Remember those?)  I even had the idea that they played the same songs at the same time every day, and would make sure my radio was on when I expected it to come on the air.  Even those upbeat songs however could reach down to my sadness.  Captain and Tennille thought that “Love would keep us together”  but that wasn’t something I could identify with at all; I just felt like everyone else could find love, but not me.  Besides, the radio played that one to death, and eventually I wanted to scream when it was played.

That time was so very long ago, and I’m in a much better place now.  I’ve had a lifetime of mental illness and periods of insanity.  I’ve also had a lifetime of learning, and accepting my condition and the appropriate treatment.  Back then though, I was at an age where it was impossible to know why I felt like I did, or even realize that there was something truly wrong with the way my brain worked.  I just felt like nobody liked me, leaving me with a very low opinion of myself and a sense that I wasn’t worth being liked.

I’ve always been very musical from playing many different instruments and publicly singing to loving the music of others.  It’s definitely been an integral part of my entire life; an expression of who I am, however much that’s changed over the years.  The taste of genres and artists has been tied directly into my mood, up or down.  And yet, no matter how well I’m doing or how far I’ve come in my treatment, there’s always going to be that boy; that young man inside who is so very sad and wounded.

“’You’ve slept too long in silence’, Mama said.  Remember Mama said, ticking ticking.  ‘Crazy boy you’ll only wind up with strange notions in your head’.  Hear it…Hear it.

Ticking, ticking… 

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It’s coming… weather I’m ready or not.

I love summer.

No, I need summer. The weather in the South Eastern United States is not that different from Florida. It’s hot and humid from July until mid-September. It’s not usual to go 30 days in a row at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and I remember many years where it doesn’t get below 90 degrees the entire month of August. Growing up we didn’t have air conditioning either. Sure, it was hot, but we were used to it and it wasn’t that bad. There was a big window fan that would pull the ‘cooler’ air in at night, and it was quite tolerable.

I love it.

The best part of this time of year is the sunshine. Afternoon Thunderstorms are regular, but they come and go rather quickly. The rest of the time it’s bright and cheerful. My mood always improves in the spring, anticipating the long days with warmth and sun. I spend as much time as possible outside too. I know it’s risky to be exposed that much, and I’ve certainly had more than my share of bad sunburns, but I really don’t care. Thankfully sunscreens have become very effective so I don’t burn (as often anyway). Summer is the time I recharge, and what carries me thought our gray, wet winters.

So what the hell has happened to summer this year?

We’ve had a record amount of rain this year. Where normally it’s unusual to have two days of rain in a row, this summer it’s been the sunny days that are the exception. It’s been cool as well.   We’ve only had a handful of days that have been over 90 degrees, and it’s been dropping down into the low 60’s at night. It feels like we’ve skipped summer altogether and just had a long fall.

It’s killing me!

Out winter last year was exceptionally wet and gray. So to go from that into this weather has me struggling. I’ve done so well for the last couple of years, but this is really pushing my limits. And now we’re really approaching fall. Another month and I can forget about any significant warm weather.

It’s not just the heat and sun though. It seems like most of my worst experiences in my life have been between October and January. There has so much death. It seems like with the exception of my Mother (Who passed in August) it seems like every significant family member has gone during the winter. Most of my significant relationships have ended then too. My last two both ended in early September, and they are still fresh in my mind. I’ve gotten over them, but it still brings back feelings of sadness.

I’m really starting to struggle with my mood. Everything is going great. I’ve been hired as a full time employee at my job, I (finally) have medical insurance, I have a great relationship, and with my new insurance I’ve been able to follow up on health issues I need to monitor, and (so far) they’ve all been fine. There is no reason at all to be down.

And yet, I am. And it’s pissing me off.

I absolutely cannot keep going through these cycles. The more I’ve learned about the illness and myself, the more difficult it has become to face. Bipolar Personality Disorder is supposed to get better with age, and I suppose in a way it has for me. Where it has gotten worse however is in my reaction to impending and extreme moods. I really know what’s coming, and I’m almost powerless to stop it. Two years ago it almost killed me the last week in August. Not on purpose, but I was so miserable I took medication I had to help me sleep. I just needed to ‘check out’ for a little while and stop thinking. But I lost track of time and how much I had taken, and ended up with a near fatal overdose. (See: Anatomy of a Suicide) I’m not suicidal now; far from it. But I have caught myself thinking about it more. Not really about myself, but just in general. Robin Williams recent death hit me particularity hard. Just another example of no matter how good things are, no matter how much success, not even millions of adoring fans depression can take it all away. (Just as an aside: I wonder if Robin was bipolar? You can certainly make a solid case for it…)

So far, I’ve been able to draw on my coping skills fairly well, and am managing to at least maintain.  Deep breathing, self relaxation, mindfulness, visualization; I’m using whatever I can to keep on top of things. Just staying focused on my mood and being aware of where I am is helpful in keeping me going. I’ve increased my dosage of my antidepressant. If that isn’t enough, I will continue to go up as high as I need to. My girlfriend has been a big help too. She’s always so positive and upbeat. I am committed to keeping up the appearance that all is well. Not in a deceitful or fake way, but by forcing myself to be up, I find that I do get to feeling better. Therapy is kind of a mixed bag when it comes to coping. My therapist is really good at helping me work though things, but for that hour every week, I’m way too focused on the negative. Facing this coming depression head on actually pushes me farther in. Just the fact that I’m headed down again is depressing. It’s the start of a bad cycle.

But Lord knows, I’ve been here before.

Yes, it’s depressing to see the pattern start to repeat. But I also have the knowledge that it can be broken. I’ve been there too, and have managed to pull myself up before completely losing control. So I know that this doesn’t have to happen. I’m better equipped to combat this change than I’ve ever been. This battle hasn’t been won by a long shot. Every day is a challenge, and some days are better than others. But I refuse to give up. There is just too much at stake. Yes, the fall is coming. Yes, it’s the beginning of my ‘bad’ season. Yes, the memories and feelings are creeping back in. And yes, I’m struggling each and every day.

But no, I’m not going to quit trying. I can beat this.

I have to.

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