Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Weathering the Storm: Blizzards Inside My Brain

"If you're feeling bad right now, you're truly good at faking it."

A friend told me this over coffee and I gave her a quick smile and a nod. I wonder, do other sick people get the same kind of comments about looking OK? You seem fine, you seem good. It is almost a compliment, yes, because it validates that whatever you are doing to look normal is working. I think we all do that, though. We buck up to make ourselves presentable to the public. Sometimes I wish it weren't this way. 

Sometimes I wish we could all just go around being totally weird, anxious, excited, angry monkeys, screaming and shrieking and swinging from traffic lights and trees. 

This is why I loved doing improv at Second City in Chicago. Improv is one venue where your wild side is invited and where, as a person in the midst of a manic episode, I felt like was at home. Make yourself into the shape of different letters of the alphabet? Yes. Walk around talking in gibberish acting like you're angry/sad/happy/scared? Done. 

Kay Redfield Jamison (my hero) wrote Touched with Fire, a book about the connection between Manic Depression and creativity. A movie with Katie Holmes was recently created under the same name. One thing I can say for sure about Bipolar Disorder is that you feel everything more deeply - often too deeply - and I can see how this affect causes one to create. 

One time several years ago I packed up my guitar and laptop and went to my office in Northeast Minneapolis at 2AM to record songs. I stayed till it was almost dawn then packed up, went home, showered and went back to work without anyone the wiser. Later I remember looking back on this and thinking that was so bizarre and...unnecessary. Last month during my partial hospitalization, I played the piano in the lobby each day at lunch. Not even real songs, I just made shit up. People mostly ignored me, but a few nice hospital visitors said thank you. Later on, when my Red had waned and Blue was back, I was like what was I thinking, playing piano spontaneously in public like that?? I probably disrupted people's lunch and surgeries...

What I currently grapple with is wanting to write, draw, sing, do voices one day and then wanting to lay on the couch, lay on the couch, and lay on the couch some more the next day.

It's a relief for me that I "came out" about my struggle with bipolar because now I have new vernacular to use with people. I feel like I don't have to hide it anymore, and - news flash - not having to hide an illness makes it easy to bear the brunt of that illness. Today I went to my psychologist and we strategized the shit out of this episode, taking blood to measure (and increase) lithium, prescribing a new sleep med, getting me involved in sleep and DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) classes. I walked out of there feeling that the Dragon was pretty well slayed this morning. 

But then, life happens. You are alone, in your car, with your thoughts. You get Taco Bell for lunch and you wonder why you got Taco Bell lunch (which, btw, is always a good idea when I'm Red). You go to the gym to swim laps and you feel like, I don't know, lonely? while trying to go back and forth and back and forth by yourself. You go home to a quiet house and you wonder what everyone else is doing, out there in the whirlwind world. Out there where people have plans and are so busy.  

I think that's the best description of Depression for me - it's bone chilling anxiety over what others have done or are doing in comparison with what I have (not) done and am (not) doing. I think this has to do with evolution. 

I'm worried that my tribe is leaving without me and there will be no one left to kill a buffalo. I will be alone. A tribe of one. 

I've used that description before because I think it gets at the real fear behind my flavor of depression which is a mix of shame of stuff I think I've done wrong and fear of what's to come because I've done those "wrong" things. It's stupid, I know. I know that from the outside I look fabulous!!!! And, yes, yes, I know I am fabulous. And you are, too. 

Anyway. I'm excited to get going on some sleep classes and learn me some DBT and pop more lithium. I'm also supposed to eat more Dairy Queen Blizzards. 


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