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Re-evaluating Things a Bit…

March 29, 2014 3 comments

I think I’m going to need to manage my expectations about my illness differently.

From one perspective I’m very lucky. My lows and highs used to be very extreme and both of them made me pretty dysfunctional. That’s not remarkable, but it’s not pleasant.

Since I’ve been on decent meds the extremes have levelled out and I’ve been able to live a mostly normal life, however saying that things are completely normal is still wishful thinking. I noticed this fact this week when my brain tipped over from low to high (it is a gradual process).

I am a computer programmer and for months I have been having a lot of difficulty at work. I’ve been making all the usual excuses, telling myself I’m a procrastinator, that I’m just bored, that other people are making my work difficult, and so on. Even my psychiatrist told me what I needed was a good kick in the backside.

Then my brain switched into high mode and suddenly how to do all my jobs became so clear and I started working my way through them. I saw my excuses for what they were. It was my brain that was still impaired.

Don’t get me wrong: my meds deal with the worst of my symptoms. However they are not 100% effective, either.

I suppose I need to look at adjusting my meds, which is a scary thing because they do work very well. I certainly don’t want to become less functional again. Still the way things stand when I’m low things at work are pretty hard, so something has to change. No more wishful thinking.

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About Heath Ledger’s Performance as the Joker

March 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Maybe I’m just being captain obvious here, but I just realized something worth pointing out.

When I was watching “The Dark Knight” years ago I was struck by Heath Ledger’s physical performance as the Joker–specifically all of his facial tics and especially what he was doing with his tongue. It never dawned on me, however, that he was imitating actual symptoms except for what was in his own imagination. Ironically I have been on anti-psychotics for about ten years now, and during that time I have always been worried about developing tardive dyskinesia. I haven’t developed TD yet, but recently I realized that it’s pretty much what Heath Ledger was imitating in his performance. I googled it and more than a few people seem to agree with me. In fact many people think Ledger delivered a textbook depiction.

I Need Less Sleep These Days…

February 22, 2014 1 comment

I got up this morning at 4:30 because I was done sleeping, had a coffee, and worked on my household budget for a few hours. I guess I am done needing a lot of sleep for a while. To me, it’s like having a super power. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts because it never does last.

Some day (too soon) I’ll be back to needing eight or more hours of sleep, plus naps.

That’s one thing about being bipolar: no condition lasts for long except for the constant cycle between high and low. Even with effective meds I find some of the symptoms always creep through.

Categories: bipolar Tags: , , , ,

I Do Know that not Everything is About Me

January 29, 2014 Leave a comment

I left a comment on “Look Straight Ahead” today. The main character, Jeremy is having a bad episode of racing malformed thoughts, and another commenter said that he/she wished that there was a cure for mental illness. I replied that my meds worked for me, but that everyone was different. Later I realized that I put things in terms of my own experience a lot when maybe I shouldn’t.

Here’s another example: I was out to lunch with a group the other day and one of the people was Vietnamese. He was telling us about one time when he was crossing the border his passport wasn’t in order and they wouldn’t let him out. I told my story about one time when a friend and I were in Poland in 1992 and his passport wasn’t in order and we had a soldier with a machine-gun screaming at us “No Visa Card!”. (They let us out after a few tense minutes). Again I felt very self-conscious after telling the story that I didn’t need to put everything in terms of my own experience.

In the first instance, I don’t feel that I have any authority to be speaking about being bipolar except through my own limited experience. Unless I’m going to refer to a book or an article, the authority is going to come from my life. I had malformed racing thoughts and my meds made them go away. It seemed like the appropriate thing to say.

In the second instance, I was just trying to hold up my end of the conversation. I don’t know much about the reality of Vietnam (as opposed to what’s in the movies). I suppose I should have thought up questions to ask instead of changing the subject (which at the time I didn’t even realize I had done). The point is, I am aware that I can be self-centred at times. It’s just that sometimes that self-awareness comes too late.

What do you readers think about this topic? What is an appropriate level of self-centredness in comments and conversation?

Excellent Webcomic About Mania

January 9, 2014 Leave a comment

Excellent Webcomic About Mania

Look Straight Ahead is an excellent webcomic about mania. It’s the truest depiction (from my point of view) that I’ve ever seen. Strictly speaking a lot of non-visual things have been translated into the visual medium so that they can be comprehended by readers (I think, anyway). If you’re willing to accept that a lot of it is not literal, however, I think the comic offers excellent insight.

I bought a copy of the graphic novel version on Amazon (it’s virtually sold-out) and I’d love to buy copies for everyone I know and say “This is it. This is mostly what it’s like”.

Categories: bipolar Tags: , ,

Losing my Job (and Lactose for the Last Time)

June 1, 2013 1 comment

Wow, I’m writing again!

Just an update. I was told at work that I’m being given my six-weeks’ notice on September 1st. My boss said that I’m smart, but the time it took me to get my work done was “retarded”. He said I wasn’t the person he hired. Of course when he hired me I was high and I would get up at 3am every night and work, and I’ve been mostly normal or low ever since. He also said I needed to get my meds changed because I was a spaced out all the time.

To be honest, I probably deserve to be let go. Also, I really don’t like working at this place, so it’s a blessing in disguise. Unfortunately it’s scary because I have to find another job and I can’t afford to be even a week without work. I’m one of those people who is one paycheque away from ruin. That’s another story for another time.

In other news, I am back on the normal generic versions of all my meds. I’m off of all the exotic stuff I was taking trying to be lactose free. It turns out it wasn’t the meds that were giving me the problems; it was all the dairy related stuff in my diet despite my best efforts to get rid of it. I found some extra strength lactase enzyme pills (Webber’s) that I take with things that give me trouble, and I’m doing pretty well. Hopefully this is the end of this topic. I know I keep saying that.

Well, I don’t have anything witty or insightful to say right now. I did find a web site that has a pretty witty and insightful look at depression:

http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.ca/2013/05/depression-part-two.html

Police Databases and Stigma

February 16, 2013 1 comment

Christ, just write something already!

According to this (admittedly old) article, if you live in Canada and you have a police report that includes the fact that you have a mental illness, it will be shared with the American Department of Homeland Security. You could be denied entry to the USA until you get a doctor’s note ($250) indicating that you are not a risk to others.

After the horrific events at Sandy Hook, gun enthusiasts were desperate to transfer the blame for the tragedy from easy access to guns to something else. They chose violent video games and the mentally ill. They called for a national database of the mentally ill similar to the one for sex offenders. If such a database ever came to fruition, I don’t think it is much of a stretch to think that getting put into the police database in Canada would eventually find one put into this database as well. Luckily for the moment it is nothing more than a rhetorical smokescreen.

Just a quick aside: I think it’s all too possible to over-simplify the causes of mass-murder. I don’t want to point a finger at any single cause and say that the killer’s mental state was irrelevant. It’s not an either/or situation. However, the vast majority of mentally ill people are harmless, as are the vast majority of legitimate gun owners, and the vast majority of video game enthusiasts. People want easy answers but there are none. Every person is a complex individual with a myriad of factors contributing to make him or her who he or she is.

Back to the main point: it is already true that getting the police involved in your mental illness in Canada can get you stigmatized in the USA. Now add to that the possibility of a national database and it means that the stigma can not only occur at the border, but potentially anywhere in the country. No one wants to live with the fear that a routine traffic stop could turn into a major incident. Furthermore, for many Canadians travel to the USA doesn’t just involve vacations or shopping, but also business trips or visits to family members–that is, trips that are harder to do without. Sometimes it’s not a matter of just staying home.

The result is that some mentally ill Canadians with ties to the USA will be (perhaps should be) motivated to hide their illness from law enforcement on both sides of the border. The national database the NRA and others are talking about is unlikely at the moment, but should it ever become a reality (there will always be more tragedies and people love scapegoats), the motivation to hide just becomes greater. Instead of seeking help, some mentally ill people will suffer in silence and fear.

Luckily the NRA’s database exists only in an uncertain future. Unfortunately the Canada/USA police database exists today.