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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Indecision

  
Life presents us all with choices. We have to start deciding things from the moment we're born until the moment we die. One thing that we all struggle with is the choice of what to do with our lives-where our careers will take us. 

Often, people with bipolar disorder have a severe impediment in choosing a career. Manic phases create delusions of grandeur, such as doctorates and outlandish goals, and depressive phases crush those dreams. When the next manic phase hits, the same thing happens, but often with a different career choice or delusion. Losing interest and motivation makes keeping a job often very difficult, and, in some cases, impossible. That may not seem like it makes sense to a lot of people-the phrase "Suck it up" comes to mind-but it's not a simple loss of motivation on a temporary basis. 

We all have that-it's called Monday-but this is a little different. It's a lot more severe. It's more like an inability to stand up and force yourself to continue. Think about pushing against a cardboard box. Easy enough, right? Well, turn that into a brick wall and things change, don't they? That's an accurate description for this. It's not being lazy, it's not a choice. I think this is one of the most common misconceptions people have. Sure, there's lots of lazy people out there, and it can be difficult to tell the difference, but it's important to know that there is one.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Loss of a Legend


Today, I learned that we lost legendary comedian and actor, Robin Williams, to apparent suicide. Robin struggled with bipolar disorder for the majority of his life. I'm active on Facebook and have seen some rather ignorant posts about how "He took the easy way out" or "He lead a charmed life, why would he do this?" These comments hit hard, and hit way too close to home.

Recently, I was voluntarily hospitalized for suicidal ideations. Why would I want to hurt or kill myself? I have a great family, I have a great life, why end it? Well, here's the facts that don't make sense to most people. I didn't want to. I don't want to. I never really did. So how did I end up coming moments away from ending my life if I didn't want to? The mind of someone with bipolar disorder is a strange thing. Sometimes, we act through a seemingly outside force. It's as though I'm standing on a nice, pretty cliff, looking at the scenery. Someone comes up and says jump. Well, I don't want to, I say, so I don't. This mysterious stranger starts to push, starts to shove. Sometimes, people fall. They don't fall because they're weak-no, they're often much stronger people than most anyone else. Saying they took the "easy way out" is an absolute ignorant and idiotic insult to throw at them. They fall because that mysterious stranger was stronger than they were. By saying they took the easy way out, those comments belittle the strength and resolve those people showed in the most personal battle of all, one that nobody else can see. It's not that they want to, it's that they're being compelled to and pushed over the edge by that mysterious stranger. The next time you hear of someone committing suicide out of the blue, remember Genie being freed from the lamp. After a nearly lifelong battle with bipolar disorder, Robin Williams is now free from his lamp, free of that mysterious stranger. Thank you, Robin, for your contributions to the film and mental illness world, showing that someone with mental illness can achieve greatness.

If you could, please visit www.nami.org and donate $5 in his honor. It would mean a lot to a lot of people. Thank you.

Image credit to: http://images6.fanpop.com/image/photos/32000000/Robin-Williams-robin-williams-32089651-1996-3000.jpg

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Warp speed



During high phases, I have had some issues with my mind racing. I don't mean in the same way as the "A million thoughts" post. I mean in ways I've never experienced. It races so hard that I have zero control over what it os I say. It's like my mind is on so many channels that it feels like static. Basically, it's too much information to pick out any one thought or idea. Or anything, really. In fact, it causes me to literally think myself into a migraine. During these points, I can't form a clear train of thought, similar to a child's first few paragraphs in school. I start talking about a photograph I want to talk about, and in two sentences, I've landed on NASA-not a part of the intended conversation.

The worst part of this is that I've even said some things that have hurt people, not intentionally, that I regret. While I admit they are not my fault, I recognize that I did say them and that I need to take responsibility for my actions and words. It's not fun to have no control over what you do, but the worst part is by far seeing how those unintentional actions effect others.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Different



Today, we're doing something a little more upbeat. It's been said and documented that people with bipolar disorder tend to be, on average, more creative and perhaps more artistic. This could explain the number of bipolar actors in Hollywood-Jim Carrey and Robin Williams, for example. I feel like it helps extract the creative side in me, perhaps helps to let me see things differently on a regular basis. It has given me a lot of inspiration for photos, such as the still life seen in "I'm Free," along with countless other less dark shots clogging up my hard drive.

This shot intrigued me because the light falls on just that one little sprout, and not just any sprout-this sprout is a little different. Sometimes, the spotlight falls on someone that isn't the stereotypical prom king or queen. To quote Sesame Street, "Sometimes, it's the differences that make the difference."

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Jump



I've touched on this topic before, but there's a lot more to it. Suicide is one of the least understood acts a person can commit. Those with no history of suicidal ideations or attempting it often can't grasp the motivations behind it.

I've heard it time and time again: suicide is "cowardly," "I don't understand-it makes no sense," or "there was no reason for him to do it." Well, to someone who has never experienced the seemingly unprovoked thoughts, not being able to make sense of it is understandable. In this photo, someone might see a gate or a good vantage point over the city (it's 7 stories up, one of the taller structures in the area), but to someone who's having suicidal thoughts, it's a place to jump off if the need arises. Contrary to belief, those thoughts just kind of appear, completely unprovoked. At times, they can be dismissed, but look at this photo a little more. Notice your eye being drawn to the gate. That's kind of what starts to happen-slowly these thoughts start to take control and can't just be brushed away. It's almost as though you've lost control of your own mind, and can even end up unexpectedly driving someone to attempt even if there are no other outward signs. The worst part: those thoughts can pop up at the most random times. Sometimes all it takes is seeing something the right way, like this gate, to conjure up thoughts about what death is like or what it would feel like gliding through the air on my way to a particularly solid landing, knowing what is going to happen.

I would like to end on this thought: even if it seems like he or she had no reason to jump, or they had everything going for them, there was a reason. There were signs. A lot of people can't talk about their problems with suicidal thoughts due to the fear of stigmatization, losing their job, or being pushed away by their families. I ask you reading this to do me a favor: if you have a friend or loved one you suspect is dealing with suicide in any way, shape, or form, reach out to them-don't push them away, and don't punish them. They may not be able to help it, and may need your help more than you even realize.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Given up


Depression has some very well known costs, such as suicidal thoughts and social withdrawal, but there's one symptom that's rarely discussed: loss of interest. Every one of these objects either is or represents something I've given up. The car represents two things: model building and racing. I've given up on photography quite a few times, but I've always come back to it. Unfortunately, music didn't meet the same fate-I don't feel inspired with an instrument in my hands anymore, and haven't for a very long time. Also, given my experiences with depression, giving up firearms (that's a BB gun) was probably a good idea.

It's a fairly predictable cycle. During hypomanic phases, I have a tendency to take on new projects, new delusions of grandeur, or find a new hobby. I would pour my heart into it at first, putting it ahead of things I really shouldn't put a hobby ahead of. But each time I'd go through a depressive phase, I would come out with less and less interest in my hobbies. Eventually, I'd feel so uninspired that they began to feel more like work and less like hobbies. When that happened, I put down the trumpet, the guitar, the dreams of being an aviator, the camera, the baseball bat, the guns and left the drag strip, and, with the exception of the camera, never picked them up again. Luckily, with medication, I don't think this will be a problem again.

On a side note, bipolar disorder itself is known to induce a creative streak in people. That's probably part of the reason I find photography (particularly film-this image was done with one of my film cameras) to be a good release, and why I was drawn to music. That's another topic for another post, I think.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Solitary nonconfinement



Often, some of the external symptoms, like endless and inappropriate talking with hypomania and excessively depressing commentary with depressive states, can push others who don't understand away. Throw that on top of the stigma that mental illness very wrongly carries, and you have a recipe for being quite alone. One look at today's photo should give a pretty clear idea of what I mean. The rocks symbolize a wall that gets built after years of losing friends and relationships and unintentionally pushing people away. For me, it became an automatic defense-be crazy and nobody will come close, so I wouldn't have to endure people walking out. Snow and ice can be the inhospitable environment created by the stigma that all of us with mental illnesses face on some level.

Stigma is one of my biggest irritants. Sure, there's little jokes here and there, and I'm not THAT thin skinned, but the fact of the matter is people just don't understand and so many just don't care to. Worse than that, there's the segment that assume that mental illness makes an individual either a bad, immoral person, or incapable of raising children. If you're reading this, do me, your friends, your neighbors, and maybe even your significant other, a favor and take a moment to try and get into the mindset of someone suffering from mental illness. The majority of people suffering from one (even depression is characterized as a mental illness) don't even realize they are. I'm lucky that I have someone who knew to send me to get help, but not everyone does.