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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Distracted


Initially, I was diagnosed with ADHD, and a lot of people with it will relate to this post. When I look at this photo, I see the beautiful flower, but I can't help but be distracted by the streaking caused by a bad seal in the camera's film magazine. No matter how much I want to concentrate on the flower, it's incredibly difficult not to be distracted by that bright white streak. This effect is quite similar to everyday life during hypomanic episodes. No matter how much I want to concentrate on something, just about everything else acts like those streaks. This is what caused a lot of my issues with school work/homework. It's not like I wasn't trying to sit and concentrate-believe me, I was-but as with the streaks, everything else was just overwhelming. I remember that music helped extend my attention span, but even that didn't entirely work.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Grinding gears


The brain is a very complex and fragile instrument, much like this watch. There's lots of gears and springs and little parts, and if something is slightly out of adjustment, the whole thing can come to a grinding halt. Consider bipolar disorder like grains of sand in there. Sometimes, they're contained and not doing any damage; they just kind of sit there. Other times, the grains get kicked up and lodge in the gears and bring everything to a stop. This has been the case with a lot of my hobbies and interests over the years. I used to be a trumpet player, and a fairly good one at that. During a depressive phase, I gave up on it. The same goes for drag racing, building model kits, rocketry, playing guitar, and even photography, though I've come back to that. What happens is that I get into something wholeheartedly during a hypomanic phase (one of the symptoms of hypomania is grand ideas and starting major projects), then a few phases later, a major depressive phase hits, and I lose interest in what it was I was doing. That major depressive phase is the sand in the gears. It could stop me despite how determined I was to succeed at something.

On the flip side, the hypomanic phase can also put a wrench in things. The grand idea aspect got me chasing too many new projects to finish any of them. A good example would be with painting projects around the house. The trim in my dining room still needs to be finished. I have to paint the plaster above the stove. But the dining room is painted and the hole in the wall is patched. These were projects abandoned before I could complete them to work on the multitude of other projects and ideas I came up with, all of which are in the same state.

Stuck in the past



While the blocks belong to my son, the toys are all things from my childhood. That was one of my favorite toy planes. The yoyo (in the background) was an obsession in middle school. The nightlight is from the 1980s. I'm not sure if this is a part of bipolar disorder or not, but I've had an incredibly hard time letting go of things from my childhood. It's not like most people, who hang on to a couple things-it's bad. I've hung on to absolutely everything I have from my childhood, even if it's falling apart or tattered. It's not like I'm a hoarder, but I can't get rid of any of it. I've found that since starting medications, letting go has become a lot easier, so this may actually be attributable to bipolar disorder.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Reaching Out


One of the things that was hardest for me was reaching out for help. It took me over a decade to admit to anyone that I had attempted suicide. After I finally came to grips with my history with suicide, I realized it was time to reach out for help. The anthers of this flower took time to reach out from inside the petals, just like I took time to reach out for help. It was a difficult process, and wasn't easy for me to admit "oh, hey, maybe there's something wrong," but now having done it, life is finally on the up.

Making the admission that there is something wrong is one of the most difficult things a person can do, and while I believe in the help I've received, I don't think anyone can force someone to accept a diagnosis or help in general before they are ready. If you're reading this, have a diagnosis, and are having a problem accepting it, don't feel alone. There's many, many others out there like you, and lots of people understand exactly what you're dealing with.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Randomness


Randomness has always been a huge part of my life. I feel like this may be attributed to hypomania, if anything. I've always been incredibly random. For example, I could be talking about catalytic converters, and suddenly I need to talk about sofa cushions. And then to poodles. And then to the guitar that guy on TV has. Then we're off to how the color silver looks quite classy on an E46 BMW but falls flat on a Jaguar.

It has its pros and cons, of course. Pros would include being quite easily entertained and being able to converse about nearly anything. The biggest con would probably be staying on topic when necessary. Other people also think that I never shut up, which, admittedly, I don't. My randomness fills any gaps in conversations. Quiet is something that's hard to find with me, but then again, it just reflects what happens in my mind.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Man Behind the Mask





One of the less desirable aspects of bipolar disorder is this sense of not knowing oneself. Due to the nature of the ups and downs, iterations of myself are plentiful. It can come across as disingenuous to others, and is quite frustrating being able to see that and not having control over it. The hardest part of all of this is knowing that I don't quite know who I am. I don't know what my dreams are, I don't understand my goals, I can't get a grasp on what it is I am because all of that is constantly changing. It's particularly difficult to find a direction, since I may choose something, but after years of hard work to get there, I'm a completely different person with completely different interests.

As of this moment, the medication is helping massively with the lows. The depressive symptoms are gone, destined to become a memory, which is a great start. Unfortunately, the hypomania is still quite present. It will take some time for me to be truly stable, and who I really am is still yet to be discovered. Hopefully it will happen soon, and this is a good start, but there's a ways to go.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Between the storms



One analogy I would like to connect with bipolar 2 is to weather a storm. With hypomania, it's a storm of thoughts and ideas and grand schemes. In the depressive phases, it's just dark and gloomy. But, as in this photo, there are breaks in the storm. There's moments in between the hypomania and the depression that allow clear, rational thinking, make day to day functioning fairly straightforward, and make life seem practically normal. I loved these moments. These were the moments when I could feel emotions that coincide with the dynamic environments of life as opposed to an all encompassing mood that casts a shadow over everything.

Once treated, life can be like one big "between the storm" with no new storm on the horizon. It can be done, and it's a massive relief. The knowledge that the next big storm was around the corner always cast a massive shadow over just about anything, and lifting that shadow is absolutely liberating.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Fog



Often, I've found myself almost devoid of emotion. It's almost as though a fog has rolled in. Like the photo, there are feelings, but like the trees, they're muted to varying degrees. This doesn't seem so bad on its face, as it does soften the sting of more difficult moments, but where this goes wrong is in muting what should be happier times. Times that should be filled with happiness just... aren't. Fake smiles abound to create the impression nothing is wrong (which I didn't even know something was). Social awkwardness takes over. This was particularly difficult in my teen years, when things like popularity and image were important. It's also a royal pain in things like job interviews, when saying the right thing is a pretty big deal in making the right first impression.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Just around the corner




Bipolar disorder is a journey. It's a journey through ups, through downs, through long straight paths, and through switchbacks. Something different is often just around the corner. That may be hypomania, that may be crippling depression, or that may be a numbness and inability to feel. But keep in mind, that may also be hope. Keep on down the path-you may find the stability I have. You may not be able to see what's coming around the corner, but don't give up. It may be the answer you've been looking for. I turned the corner, and I can say thanks to my medications, I'm free.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Something in the way



There's something that isn't seen in this photo. Behind all that greenery is fantastic view of the Fox River. A lot of people with bipolar disorder have a problem seeing and achieving their goals due to the lack of focus or motivation. Just imagine sitting on that bench, seeing reality in front of you, knowing that behind it there's something much more majestic that you can't see, can't experience. For me, that was stability. I long theorized that something was wrong, and that there was a way to treat it, but I had no idea how to begin, how to get through that brush to see the river.

Crash



A car is made of pretty strong materials. Plastics are resilient, steel is quite rigid, aluminum is strong and light, but even the strongest things can be damaged fairly easily. This car has crumple zones, and probably didn't sustain THAT hard of an impact-most likely less than 40 mph. The point of this is that during the depressive phases, sometimes the smallest words and seemingly insignificant things can cause massive damage. Imagine, for a moment, that this car sustained this damage at 5 mph. That's the kind of fragility I've experienced during depressive phases-things seem OK, but someone says the wrong thing, I become obsessed with it, and the damage is done.

A million thoughts



This particular photo is quite busy. There's no particular focus, there's too many shadows, the trees are cut off, and all the trees distract from each other-it all makes for a particularly awful photo. That's the point. This is basically my mind during a hypomanic episode. I can't focus on a single thing to completion. Thousands of different thoughts race through my mind, all simultaneously. The trees are similar to the grand ideas I get-things like building a Formula One go kart or starting a variety of businesses-but never complete. Basically, it's like living a stream of consciousness without being able to control where it goes.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I'm Free


For my first blog post, I'm going to tackle the hardest of all. This scene is a recreation of what is most likely the darkest moment in my life. I had been incredibly depressed, and the pressures of an awkward social life and failing academics had become too much. I decided it was time.

I attempted to overdose on some pills I had found around the house. I remember the words I thought as I got ready to close my eyes for what I thought would be the last time-I'm free. Whatever it was that was consuming me had won. I gave up and gave in.

Thankfully, I woke up the next morning, but had to put on a happy face and pretend it never happened. It took me well over a decade to let anyone know this ever happened. I still have a hard time talking about it, and likely will for the rest of my life. This was only the first of many attempts to come-all, thankfully, quite unsuccessful.

The words "I'm free" have stuck with me ever since this particular attempt. Recently, however, they have taken on a new meaning through therapy and treatment, and mean that something great is sure to be on the horizon.