The Damnable Joys of Manic-Depression

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


11 Responses to “The Damnable Joys of Manic-Depression”

  1. Hi Tom. Every time I listen to “Time is Tight” I think of you because you mentioned it once in a post in the old Vox days. I listen to it nearly every weekend, along with a lot of Booker T stuff. Even though it was popular during my young days (I’m 75) I didn’t recall it. So, thank you for bringing Time is Tight to my notice.

    I’m told that tonight there is a super Moon. I always find that looking at the stars is very soothing to the soul, and yes, there’s been many times when I could use some soul soothing. That’s all part of life, isn’t it.

    I also find Neil de Grasse Tyson’s “Cosmic Perspective” to be comforting. Somehow my problems seem rather small when seen from that perspective.

    I also like Neil de G’s “We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically.”

    I hope your health continues to improve, Tom.

    • Snowy! Thanks for the comment. If I drop dead today, I’ll do so happily knowing I reintroduced someone to “Time is Tight.” I should probably listen to it more.

      I’ve watched Neil de Grasse’s programs. It’s amazing how much better the graphics are than Carl Sagan’s awesome “Cosmos” series from last century.

      We had some light rain clouds last night, and the Super Moon behind them. It was gorgeous. I wanted to take a pic, but the camera function on my cell wouldn’t cooperate. It was definitely bigger and brighter than the full moon last month (not that last month’s full moon was a twat or anything: it’s still a full moon, ffs), it’s just like I’m six-four and my brother is five-ten. Some relatives are bigger than others. (What a fucked-up analogy)

      Anyway, good to hear from you, and thanks for the kind wishes.



  2. Christina Says:

    I’ve been so bad at reading up on my blogs. (And posting blogs.) you’re email got me here and since I have 9 minutes before I HAVE to shower, I figured I’d start here and then email later.

    I’m glad you’re having occasional normal days and I hope they keep happening. Thankfully I have many more normal days to shit days, now, but things that make me feel better include brownie brittle, ice cream, and bad Netflix TV like “Bob’s Burgers” or “The IT Crowd.” I’m also glad that you can realize the brain shift from mania to depression. It’s a small victory, but sometimes knowing what your body is doing is half the battle. I know my anxiety was a lot more manageable when I finally recognized this was just a thing my body did sometimes and that it would pass.

    The IT band is something they mention a lot on yoga class, but I’ve never really experienced the deep stretch the always seem to think they’re giving my IT band. I assume mine is not tight. I’ll do a little research on it at some point and get back to you.

    I’m pretty sure figure four stretches are suppose to be good for it… And you can do those laying down, so that feels good.

    Runners have tight IT bands — which only makes me feel more certain that I’m only a faux runner.

    • This amuses me for some reason, but Annie the Soapmaker (in real life) used to run a lot, and she developed a bad ITB strain. I just love when my real and imaginary worlds intersect, especially if have good meds when they do 🙂

  3. Well, I read the last Casablanca post, hmph! I thought it was entertaining, though I was extremely confused when Harry Potter made an appearance. (Are there different Harry Potters lurking about on different planes of reality, so that the little boy Harry is in one dimension while middle-aged stodgy Harry is toddling about in another?)

    On a more somber note, I’m sorry you’ve struggling with manic depression. The regular-grade depression is bad enough; I can’t imagine what it’s like to have your thoughts spinning out of control.

    Be careful with the Tramadol: it can cause a bad reaction if you combine it with certain antidepressants. I speak from experience, having ended up in the hospital after some dumb orthopedic doc prescribed it without asking about my other meds.

    I’m glad you’re not dealing with this alone, that you have a good psychiatrist to help you through the medication and treatment maze. (I keep hearing ‘experts’ say you have to advocate for your own care, but how the hell are you supposed to do that if you’re sick and don’t know the difference between zoloft and zooplankton?) Just know too that you have people in the webiverse who are rooting for you as well. [Hugs tom’s really large knee.]

    • Annie the Soapmaker went back to the “Prisoner of Askaban” time in the Potter saga to get the Hippogriff blood. That’s when they were first introduced, and Annie has no bounds of time nor place, which is how she got into MacBeth.

      I’ve talked to a few people who’ve had bad reactions to Tramadol. It’s worked fine for me. No narcotic fun. Just pain relief. KAPOW. Sleep (if I take two).

      Thanks for stopping by, Professor.

  4. Sleep every night is a great goddamn achievement. For that alone, I would salute you (and bear hug you for all the rest).

    • Thanks, Laurie. Sleep is good, even if there’s a nudge or two to get there. Hope you’re doing well. ((hugs))

  5. I would give you a hug if I could. I know that won’t fix anything, but I’d give you one anyway. Awfully prescient, this post, given the sad news today. I just posted about my mom, and the ‘bipolar as seen by your kids’ life we lead. Glad things are not at the extremes any more. Still.

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