Religion and Bipolar

My background is rooted in the Protestant church.

When I was old enough to take myself to church I went. I knew something was wrong with me and the church was the only place I knew of that could help me. I learned I was a sinner and that God healed. I chased after God for 25 years, all the while believing that my anger and rage and other sinful thoughts, emotions, and urges were manifestations of the sin in my spirit.

I was told to pray.

I felt fire in my soul, and it was encouraged.

I believed the pain I felt was caused by my sins, but that was wrong. It wasn’t my fault that I felt like a spiritual battle was raging in me. Blame it on chemistry, not on the condition of my heart.

My ideas continue to develop on the subject of religion and mental illness. What do you think? Have you ever felt a struggle between faith and brain chemistry? What do you think Bipolar Disorder is caused by? Is it punishment for our sins? Or an unfortunate roll of the genetic dice?



Bipolar – Pain – Mental Illness

Whenever I want to try to help someone understand what I call my “mental pain,” I search other kinds of pain that I’ve experienced that others might identify with. Then I explain how that translates to my mental pain. Of course, it’s different for each of us, and sometimes, it’s even different for me from time to time.

This morning I’m experiencing severe pain in my eyes. I don’t normally feel pain and then think, “Oh, I should use this to explain my mental pain!” But right now, the pain is clawing from the front of my eyeballs through my temples. It’s at an 8 on the pain scale.

I woke up Friday morning and couldn’t see. I closed my eyes, I thought that’s what I was doing, and the pain was, well, blinding. I tried to open them and there was no change. Were they open? Or closed?

I’d started using Restasis almost two months ago and was enjoying moister eyes. I hadn’t realized they had become so uncomfortable. In my panic, I thought that my might eyelids could be stuck to my eyeballs. Was I blind!?

I couldn’t be blind! I couldn’t stand it.

A small flash of reason reached through and I reached for my eyedrops. I’m supposed to use them every few hours throughout the day. I couldn’t find them. I couldn’t see them, and my hand couldn’t find them. Eventually, though I did reach them and squeezed the vial empty into my eyes. It was working! I could see now so I got another vial and did it again. It was getting better. I could see and the pain was lessening.

I can only describe the pain like having sandpaper on the inside of my eyelids. They scraped up and down, again and again. I called my eye doctor six minutes after they opened and was soon being seen. My dry eyes had gone from a .7 (like the California deserts) to a .2 in dryness (like the Atacama Desert, located in Chile, is the driest sandy desert in the world) in dryness.

It occurs to me, as I sit on my couch right now, and wait for the pain in my eyes to subside (this is also new), that this is very much like some of the mental pain I sometimes feel.

How can I explain to someone without a mental illness what the infusion of depression, anxiety, confusion, and panic cause as a sort of mental pain? It hurts. My heavens it hurts so hard. Sometimes I just want it all to stop. It has to stop.

Having this pain in my eyes has made me think about pain and making it stop. Would I be willing to give up my eyes in order to stop this pain if it was to be permanent and get worse and worse? My first response is “no.” But then I realize what I’ve just said. This feeling, this feeling of wanting it to stop no matter what, it’s an illusion that my brain creates when my emotions are desperate for relief.

An illusion? Not an illusion, but subjective. We feel our pain in diverse ways and respond differently too. Can you imagine the pain I’m feeling in my eyes? My pride says you cannot. My suffering is worse than what you can understand. Is this true? Of course it is. Only I understand my personal pain.

Then why should I bother trying to explain what my mental pain is like? Because even if I can’t help someone to fully realize what I’m going through, at the very least it’s a healthy thing for me to do… reach out. And, the person who’s willing to listen is being given the chance to be compassionate. They may not understand what I’m feeling, but maybe they will grow in their ability to be compassionate in the future to others… to me.

My eyes have course sandpaper lining the inside of my eyelids. Every blink feels as though it is ripping more and more of my eye away. I want it to stop.

Do you feel mental and emotional pain? What about physical pain that makes you feel suffering mentally? Do you keep your pain to yourself? Or do you reach out and try to connect with someone who may learn to be compassionate?

Starting with Mania – Bipolar

Descriptions of Bipolar Disorder are pretty standard across books and websites. The symptoms seem easy for anyone to understand. Unfortunately, they are not. I will be looking at each of the significant symptoms and will show what they look like on a real person. It is essential to understand them. To give you an example, what does it mean when I say that one of my most persistent symptoms is “pressured speech.” “Pressured speech,” this is not something I’d ever heard before.

I’m not a walking list of the common symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. Since a large part of mania seems to consist of going excessively fast I’m going to start right off with it. Get ready – The following information is critical to understand precisely what Bipolar Disorder is so that you can live life to the fullest. Ignorance of my condition left me without defenses and practically begs for things to go wrong. Now that I understand more about the disorder, I generally deal with it more successfully. Well, some of the time. Other times, it seems to slap me upside the head before I ever see it coming. Despite the seemingly inevitable setback, I feel like I have a fighting chance. For once, I even feel hope.

Mania – Pressured Speech

Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness where a person’s moods swing wildly from severe depression to reckless mania. Pressured speech is one loud symptom of Bipolar Disorder. I’ve repeatedly been told that I do it, but no one ever stopped to explain what it means. I had to research on my own to figure out what “pressured speech” means.

Knowledge – For me, a key to coping with any illness has always been understanding what’s wrong with me and how I can fight it. I hate seeing the same look on people’s faces when I realize that I’m my speech seems pressured. It freaks them out. It freaks me out too. It makes me realize that I’m talking crazy talk again and again and again.

“Pressured speech” is my “crazy talk.” Everyone deals with the disorder differently. Labeling pressured speech as my crazy talk is a way that I like to think I’m stuffing thoughts of being crazy into a specific behavior. When I can resist doing pressured speech I feel less crazy. I suppose that’s weird, but it seems to help me cope with it.

Some illnesses can be detected by looking at x-rays or surgically investigating a problem area. No medical test can be used to determine if I have Bipolar Disorder. I was required to meet with a medical person that I knew nothing about so that she could decide if I was eligible for disability status. She asked me some questions, and then we were done. I was labeled as disabled and given medical care. Since it only seemed to take mere minutes to determine that I have Bipolar Disorder, I wondered if I had acted excessively crazy. I tried to answer her questions honestly and without spending time trying to use wording that would influence her decision.

Whenever a person assesses me (which they regularly do to determine if I’m still eligible for mental health care), I hope that they are well versed in identifying the signs of the illness and are confident in determining if I have it or not. The first behavioral clue that screams that I have Bipolar Disorder appears to be my speech. I talk all the time. And fast. My kids tell me to stop and take a breath. Talking. I have so much to say. Okay, that isn’t a mental illness. It’s irritating, but it isn’t a mental illness. However, pressured speech can be evidence of it. Pressured speech is something that I do all the time. Even when I’m depressed, I still manage to have pressured speech. So what the heck is it?

Pressured speech is different for every person. Just about all the lists of symptoms of Bipolar Disorder will have it on them. Let me explain what it looks like in me.

People may wonder if I have Bipolar Disorder when they hear me speak too fast and sound like there is some crisis that I feel compelled to tell others about it. I can sound erratic and talk without stopping or even noticing that someone else might want to speak. I am not easy to interrupt. Often what I say is irrelevant or strange, and the person I’m talking at doesn’t know what I’m talking about. When I have pressured speech, I may not stop talking when I usually would. I act like what I’m saying is urgent and essential and it doesn’t matter whether or not the person trying to listen can follow me or not.

I seem to speak like I’m leaning into a wind, a mighty wind, and I’m bent over trying to stay standing. You could say that I am pushing a car up a hill that never ends. The pressure I apply to keep the car moving is just like the way I talk like I am pushing forward faster and harder all the time.

My speech is pressed out of me with an urgency that doesn’t even come close to the situation. It is as though I’m waving a flag in a frenzy announcing to the world that I have delusions of grandeur. What I say is of great importance even though it is often fragmented and random. I speak with urgency thinking that what have to say is so important that I have to be listened to right this very second and I have to tell everything to you all at once. All at once may mean that I’m going to talk at you for as long as I can unless someone stops me. Occasionally I can stop myself, but that’s usually when I see the listeners face and it registers with me that they seem to think that they’re being faced with listening to a crazy person.

I bet you didn’t know that pressured speech was such a  complicated symptom. That’s cool. It’s also a written example of me with pressured speech. <Deep breath, sigh>

Sometimes, when I’m finally taking a little break, I realize that I’m getting tired. Pressured speech can be hard work. Listeners should try to be more understanding. Don’t you think so?  <Heh>

<This is unedited and is a demonstration of pressured speech as I experience it. It may be different for another person, and it is different for me each time that I do it, which is a lot, all day long. It is meant to illustrate what people mean when they use the term “pressured speech” when talking about Bipolar Disorder.>

Bipolar – Etiquette Driven By ME

Despite regularly feeling madness was my destination, I determined the etiquette of my personal success, inspite of myself.

Never give up.

I Would Be Truly Insane…

I would be truly insane if I didn’t fire my med provider.

My doctor agrees.

She’s history.

This is me standing up for myself.

I win.

Bipolar Madness

I realize that having Bipolar doesn’t mean I’ve fallen into the fire of madness, but that’s the horrible truth of having a debilitating mood disorder, sometimes you feel that way.

There isn’t a right or wrong way to experience it. When my moods swing with what seems to be infinite patience on its part, just waiting for the right moment to strike, I feel like I have something burning in my brain. It’s really runaway anxiety or mania or depression. Most of the time it’s both and it is so HARD to understand where I’m at.

Are you depressed, he asks. Yes.

Do you feel anxiety or manic? He ask. Yes.

He accepts my answer because he has worked with me for some time and he knows I’m speaking truthfully.

I’m so confused. It terrifies me. I FEEL like I don’t know who I am.

Right now I can’t sleep. The pendulum has swung far to manic side. It’s all I can do to keep from getting up and working on my website.

The truth, when I can remember it, is that I will be okay. I haven’t felt like hurting myself for months and that only lasted a little while.

I will be okay. I will fight to be awesome. I’m graduating with a bachelor’s degree. My mind didn’t shut down til finals week, my last quarter. Knowing myself, that’s amazing. I should have not been able to get through my first quarter… Maybe I didn’t come through as healthy as when I staryed. I was hysterical and so full of anxiety I often couldn’t do the work without my son’s support. I really believed I would fail. I had a hard time remembering things.

This blog isn’t necessarily about living and losing the fight with Bipolar. Nor is it one that has a sunny message to encourage you with everyday. I’d like to think that as I share my reality you might feel that you’re not alone.

You’re never alone.

There are so many of us who have taken to sharing what we can online that I’m confident you’ll find someone to click with for informative answers to help you. You might find those here. I do grow and learn and I’m stronger than I realize because I haven’t lost all my mental cookies. I won’t. I refuse. This last week I was so close though.

Two days after I lost time I started feeling a little mad, like my reality was having to fight to keep me together.

Monday I will go to that huge building (the Tacoma Dome) and walk across that stage. I may be terrified, but my friends I will graduate with will be with me and my family will be there too.

The etiquette of this rocking mood disorder, that doesn’t play fair, sometimes makes me feel mad. Insane even. It isn’t fair. There ought to be rules it has to follow.

There ought it be some kind of etiquette.

Remember, you are not alone.

If you find my blog is worth reading, please share it. There are more if us than I think you might now imagine. I’d like to know them too. Thank you for tuning in. I’ll be playing here all week. I’m not going anywhere. I will not. I refuse.

Be well friend. Refuse to quit.

Bipolar – I Lost Time

Sometimes you think you’re doing all you can to maintain the appearance of normalcy then your brain throws you a curve ball thrown at you from a speeding car and you just can’t prevent the crash from happening.

My daughter (Jessica) lives with me. Wednesday I was working on my final paper. I was stressed, but I felt like I could handle it.

Then I lost time. Thursday at 10 a.m. Jessica found me in my room, still fully dressed, laying on top of my blanket, with my glasses still on, the light was on and there was blank computer paper all over the room.

When she woke me up I immediately panicked. I was supposed to have written my rough draft and was due to meet with my professor in 2 hours.

I didn’t write anything apparently. The folder for that class had been deleted form my computer.

All the lights in the house were still on. I guess I hadn’t fed my beta fish because their lights were still on. I don’t know if I took my dog out before it happened.

My laptop was on the floor in the other room, open, and the battery dead. On the sofa my research was neatly stacked and still in the order I was going to use them in.

I think I remember sitting down and getting ready to write. Then… nothing.

I’m missing 14 hours.

I was sent to the emergency room at the hospital. They found nothing and hours later they sent me home. I still don’t know what happened.

Why was there blank computer paper all over my room? What happened to me?

I’ve talked to the hospital doctors, my counselor, and my retarded med provider and we all agree my brain had enough and the stress I carry with me every day finally caused me to shut down. The med provider said she’s had other patients do that. She just told me to keep doing my relaxation techniques and not to take my chill pill. I’m not certain why.

My professor knows what happened and is working with me to be able to turn something on Sunday so I can graduate. I have excellent timing.

I woke up about 2 hours ago and I think it happened again. I found my iPad next to me on my bed and my glasses part way under me. I must have been watching something… but I don’t remember what. I don’t know why my iPad was on my bed and my glasses still also on the bed.

I’m so confused.

Now I’m remembering that I’ve been waking up with my glasses on, the light on and something like the iPad next to me for some time now. I had just thought I was tired.

One of my son’s yelled at me because he thinks we should have called him at told him I was in the ER. Looking back I probably should have. But you know what?

I was embarrassed.

I suspected it was anxiety. I think I felt it would make me look sicker to them, my kids. Why the he’ll would that matter? They know I have an alphabet following me around (like Bpd, PTSD, GA, FM, IBSD, RA, OA. And let’s add chronic pain.) Why did I feel the need to hide It?

I’ve been going to the University of Washington Tacoma for three years. Last quarter I started having trouble getting along with others in class. I thought this quarter I was doing better….

I just wanted to be like all the other students and act normal.

Normal. I’m not normal.

The other day I gave a presentation in my advanced writing class and I turned it into a stand up comedy bit. The class was laughing hysterically. I was so funny. I didn’t follow the guidelines for the assignment at all and I even kind of insulted the professor. I got an A- on it. I was so excited. I love doing that, being funny like that. Whenever I’ve had the chance to do it people crack up.

If everything seemed to be going well, what the hell happened?

I’ve always known that the brain is more complicated than the universe and we know almost nothing about it, but this, this is beyond me.

I’ve been awake since I woke up at about 4. I don’t want to go to sleep. My brain isn’t playing fair. If I decide to go back to sleep… will I wake up?

I blame the incredibly high stress on 2 people: myself for not exercising, not eating well and not meditating or practicing mindfulness or something, anything, that might have helped. And I blame my med provider because I’ve been asking her to try another medication because my anxiety was growing and growing for the whole sic months or so I’ve been seeing her and she’s done nothing. I’m going to demand someone else. I just hope there is someone else and that they know what they’re going. And I’d started feeling like I wanted to hurt myself and still she changed nothing.

I don’t understand why I didn’t call my other kids. I feel embarrassed and ashamed. I’ve not felt like this before. I feel like I’ve just proved that I still can’t hold a job and my kids have to babysit me and my mother has to support me financially. I don’t want to keep being a burden.

Since I lost all that time I’ve decided to push how horrible I feel and use this as a reset button. I graduate Monday. After that I’m leaning a bi-weekly writers club, a fellowship really, with people who signed up when I announced I was going to do it.

Robin, your peers respect you or they wouldn’t have signed up and started asking when the first meeting was going to be.

What have I learned? My brain is more delicate and yet more resilient than I ever imagined.

I’m creative and I’m funny and I’m respected. I’m going to finish my book, get fit and interact with friends. I haven’t had real friends who I could see in person for may be 20 years. Honest truth. I’ve been so lonely, yet so afraid they would find out something is wrong with me.

I do still believe that my particular brain gives me the ability to do things that are special and amazing. I must always strive to be stronger in body and mind. I’m afraid of this blackout happening again, but even so, I’m graduating from college at 55 years old with a sever disability. That’s pretty cool.

I need to believe what my kids keep telling me, that I am the one who went back to school and got my degree. I did that and that’s amazing.

Probably my biggest problem is my inability to shut my brain off. I worry all the time. I’m going to try to replace that worry by engaging myself fully in projects I’m excited about.

I’m going to remember that I can make a difference and that um special in a good way. I’m completely unique and it’s time to put that to good use.

I’m going to nap now that I’ve worked through all that. Despite my not so great feelings that are still there… I can do anything.

I lost time. Maybe I became like a baby and was reborn to a new start. A new beginning. And this post has become as long as a chapter in a book. Time to stop.

Dear Reader, keep on pressing on. We’re gonna be okay. We can even be great!


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