There are different words today, different terms in the nomenclature: bi-polar disorder; bi-polar one; bi-polar two; bi-polar with caramel drizzle, you name it.
For me, it’s just been three years of soul-rending manic depression–that’s how it feels to me, so fuck the nomenclature. There’s mania, and there’s depression, and neither are pleasant.
Mania can almost be fun. Life is fast and furious, like Mrs. Howell after she ate the radioactive sugar beets on that Gilligan’s Island episode: she was running around with the film sped up to about eight-times normal. It was comedy.
The manic phase of the disorder is like driving downhill on a winding road. It’s fun for awhile, but soon, you wish for a straightaway, or for the road to level out, so you’re just not so unstoppably jittery. It’s like running and running and running, and you want to stop, but you have to keep running and running.
There’s a poem–I think it’s e.e. cummings–and that’s basically it: “running, running, fast, oh, fast.”
You can’t stop. You can’t sleep. You can’t shut off your mind. Your thoughts come so fast and furious, you can’t possibly consider them all, profundities and inanities contrapuntal. I’ve been up for three straight manic days before, driving when I was too amped to be driving, but there was nothing else to do. So I’d drive from St Pete to Sarasota or vice versa just for lunch. It’s a miracle I wasn’t killed, although the idea of dying wasn’t necessarily averse then, just so I could stop. Fucking. Running.
So you’re running or driving, and everything has a glow, a shimmer about it–but it’s too much of a glow or shimmer, something akin to glare, like looking at the Sun two hours before sunset as opposed to two minutes before sunset. Nothing mellow about it. And your skin vibrates. Not literally–most of the time, although I got tingles and twitches–but you feel electric charges running up and down your body.
Then you run–or drive into–the wall.
The wall is depression. You hit that, and your remains slide inexorably down into a pit, into The Abyss, as I’ve often called it. Your lowest point gets on a downward elevator, and you can’t stop. You don’t know how far down you’ve gone, or how far down you’re going to go. Only that it’s a dark place, and it’s claustrophobic as shit, and you just want to curl up in a ball and die. You want the darkness to go away, some how, some way–any way.
This is the part where you curl up in a ball, where you stay in bed for days at a time, if you can. I could. I’d order in food and take care of the cat, but the rest of the time, I was just trying to think of something positive in my life, some reason not to just give up. Suicide was never an option–I’m far too much of a coward to try that–but I’ve tried to eat and drink myself to death. I’m now losing a lot of weight, and I’ve been sober nine years and change, so those failed. This is the part of the disease where I thank God for the Internet, so I can spend my gray hours gazing unfocusedly at stale JFK Conspiracy or Hitler docs, or watch some movie I like okay but have seen a dozen times (Double Indemnity, e.g.).
The Internet is a double-edged sword, though. In addition to my black-and-white world, I might end up on Facebook, and see my friends or family and their perfect, brightly colored lives. “Had a great time cooking out by the pool with the kids! Can’t believe how BIG they’ve gotten!!!!!”
Their lives are exclamation point lives, full of promise and awesomeness. Where would my life be in the world of punctuation? Ellipses? “Tom was in radio, had his station changed so he was unemployed, then he tried another job, and now he’s depressed and doing nothing…” Maybe a dash would be more optimistic: “Tom had some bad stuff happen–and his head blew up for awhile–” That implies a resolution, a “but NOW Tom is doing ____”.
For nearly three years, I’ve been seeing one of the foremost psychologists in the field of depressive illnesses. We’ve been through more bottles of more pills that Big Pharma should buy us both Porsches.
We’re to a point now where the mania still happens, but it’s not as bad, nor does the Abyss seem as deep.
Don’t get me wrong–they both still suck ass–but there’s improvement. Also, when I’m between the two, I might have a normal day or two. I don’t even know what to do with a normal day.
Finally, I can sense when I’m slipping from one to the other, and I feel like I have the tools to protect myself. If depression is coming on, I’m not going to agree to go to somebody’s house where there are small children, for example. If mania is coming on, that might not be so bad.
Naturally, since my brain was starting to heal, something bad happened in my left upper leg. Nobody has been able to tell me what it is. I’ve had prescriptions, enough x-rays to fuel a quasar, and just finished my fifth of six weeks of physical therapy. I now have an appointment with a new Orthopedist, whom my mother says is awesome. She’s a nurse she knows things. I got a scrip for Tramadol from my GP in St Pete on our “farewell, and let’s check your bloodwork” visit. I told him the problem. He wrote me for Tramadol twice a day with a refill. Okay. I don’t really take pain pills unless I’m in pain, so that was fine. Until one night when GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY, it felt like somebody had cut into my left thigh with a chainsaw, and did it again and again. I grabbed my Tramadol bottle–trying not to scream the whole time–and thought, “the dose is one, Tom, so–SWEET JESUS, CHEW UP FOUR OF THEM!”
I found that in certain positions, there was incredible pain, while in other positions, there was nothing. Not a twinge or anything. This has continued for the past seven weeks, and it has gotten better, I admit. (aside: My St Pete GP is very laid back. His labeling instructions were “Take one tablet every eight hours as needed.” New GP? “Take one to two tablets BY MOUTH two to three times a day for serious pain.” (caps mine)).
How else would I take these pill? I’m not going to snort Tramadol. Jeesh.
While I was doing my PT on Friday, I saw these charts on the wall. There, on the right-hand chart, I saw my problem. Nobody had touched me or really asked me many question, but the patient seems to have discovered a problem with his left I-T band. I don’t know what that means, except that it radiates from where mine radiates, then up and down where mine goes up and down. Poor Blue Cross/Blue Shield is paying a shitload for something I saw on a chart.
Anyway, earlier this week I was so manic, I wrote 5000 or 6000 words in “Back to Casablanca.” I doubt anyone read them, or even if they make any sense. It was fun to do. Today, I couldn’t even come up with a rude t-shirt for Annie. It’ll come back. I just hope it’s soon: I was having a ball writing those Casablanca mash-ups and creating new people. (Seriously, how often do you get to smoosh together MacBeth, Casablanca, Harry Potter, Annie the Soapmaker (who is indeed real: find her awesome, tom used and endorsed wares here)
Plus some other friends, made-up people, and Brother Ray and ‘Trane, all jammin’ in Casablanca?
I was hurting earlier, so I took a few Tramadol as ordered by my control-freak new doc, and I’m turning into Jell-O.
The two harshest things my psychiatrist told me were A) that I will have issues–cognitive dissonance, et al–which will often require psychotherapy, and B) I will have Manic-Depression all my life. It’s just a matter of finding the right meds and the right behavior tools to control it. I think I’m on my way. I’m getting better sloooooooowly, incrementally.
I’m nowhere near done in my “comeback.”
But now I can sleep. Every damn night